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area handbook series 


a country study 


a country study 

Federal Research Division 
Library of Congress 
Edited by 
Helen Chapin Metz 
Research Completed 
May 1992 

On the cover: Ancient Arab tower near the old port, 

Fourth Edition, First Printing, 1993. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Somalia: A Country Study / Federal Research Division, Library of Con- 
gress ; edited by Helen Chapin Metz. — 4th ed. 

p. cm. — (Area handbook series, ISSN 1057-5294) 
(DA Pam ; 550-86) 

"Supersedes the 1982 edition of Somalia: a country study, 
edited by Harold D. Nelson" — T.p. verso. 
"Research completed May 1992." 

Includes bibliographical references (pp. 237-259) and index. 
ISBN 0-8444-0775-5 

1. Somalia. I. Metz, Helen Chapin, 1928- . II. Library of 
Congress. Federal Research Division. III. Series. IV. Series : DA 
Pam ; 550-86. 

DT401.5.S68 1993 93-16246 

967.73— dc20 CIP 

Headquarters, Department of the Army 
DA Pam 550-86 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 


This volume is one in a continuing series of books prepared by 
the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under 
the Country Studies/ Area Handbook Program sponsored by the 
Department of Army. The last page of this book lists the other 
published studies. 

Most books in the series deal with a particular foreign country, 
describing and analyzing its political, economic, social, and national 
security systems and institutions, and examining the interrelation- 
ships of those systems and the ways they are shaped by cultural 
factors. Each study is written by a multidisciplinary team of social 
scientists. The authors seek to provide a basic understanding of 
the observed society, striving for a dynamic rather than a static 
portrayal. Particular attention is devoted to the people who make 
up the society, their origins, dominant beliefs and values, their com- 
mon interests and the issues on which they are divided, the nature 
and extent of their involvement with national institutions, and their 
attitudes toward each other and toward their social system and 
political order. 

The books represent the analysis of the authors and should not 
be construed as an expression of an official United States govern- 
ment position, policy, or decision. The authors have sought to 
adhere to accepted standards of scholarly objectivity. Corrections, 
additions, and suggestions for changes from readers will be wel- 
comed for use in future editions. 

Louis R. Mortimer 

Federal Research Division 
Library of Congress 
Washington, D.C. 20540 



The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of the fol- 
lowing individuals who wrote the 1982 edition of Somalia: A Coun- 
try Study: Robert Rinehart, Irving Kaplan, Donald P. Whitaker, 
Jean R. Tartter, and Frederick Ehrenreich. Their work provided 
the basis of the present volume, as well as substantial portions of 
the text. 

The authors are grateful to individuals in various government 
agencies and private institutions who gave their time, research 
materials, and expertise to the production of this book. These in- 
dividuals include Ralph K. Benesch, who oversees the Country 
Studies — Area Handbook program for the Department of the 
Army. Special thanks are owed to Thomas Ofcansky who assisted 
in providing data with which to update the various chapters. Graph- 
ics support was supplied by the firm of Greenhorne and O'Mara; 
Harriet R. Blood, who prepared the topography and drainage map; 
Carlyn Dawn Anderson, who designed the illustrations on the ti- 
tle pages of the chapters; and Wayne Home, who designed the 

Special appreciation is due the Department of Defense for the 
use of January 1993 photographs from Operation Restore Hope. 
These pictures, taken by members of the United States Armed 
Forces with digitized cameras, were transmitted by satellite from 
Somalia directly to computers in the Pentagon; they represent a 
technological advance for on-the-scene photographic coverage. 

The authors also wish to thank members of the Federal Research 
Division who contributed directly to the preparation of the 
manuscript. These people include Sandra W. Meditz, who reviewed 
all drafts and graphic material and served as liaison with the spon- 
soring agency; Tim L. Merrill, who assisted in preparing maps; 
LaVerle Berry, who provided background area information; David 
P. Cabitto, who provided invaluable graphic assistance and super- 
vised graphics production; and Marilyn L. Majeska, who managed 
editing and production. Also involved in preparing the text were 
editorial assistants Barbara Edgerton and Izella Watson. 

Individual chapters were edited by Vincent Ercolano. Cissie Coy 
and Catherine Schwartzstein performed the final prepublication 
review, and Joan C. Cook compiled the index. Linda Peterson of 
the Library of Congress Composing Unit prepared the camera- 
ready copy, under the supervision of Peggy Pixley. 




Foreword Hi 

Acknowledgments v 

Preface xi 

Country Profile xiii 

Introduction xxi 

Chapter 1. Historical Setting l 

Said S. Samatar 



Coastal Towns 5 

Emergence of Adal 6 

Mogadishu and Its Banaadir Hinterlands 8 

The Somali Peninsula on the Eve of Imperial 

Partition 9 

The Majeerteen Sultanates 10 


Mahammad Abdille Hasan's Dervish Resistance 

to Colonial Occupation 13 

Consolidation of Colonial Rule 14 

Somalia During World War II 14 

British Military Administration 16 

Trusteeship and Protectorate: The Road to 

Independence 20 


Problems of National Integration 26 

Pan-Somalism 28 

Foreign Relations, 1960-69 30 

The Husseen Government 31 

The Igaal Government 33 

Coup d'Etat 36 


Supreme Revolutionary Council 37 

Challenges to the Regime 40 

Siad Barre and Scientific Socialism 40 

The Language and Literacy Issue 43 


Creation of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party . . 44 


Entrenching Siad Barre's Personal Rule 45 

Siad Barre's Repressive Measures 48 

Persecution of the Majeerteen 50 

Oppression of the Isaaq 50 

Harrying of the Hawiye 51 

Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment .... 55 

Said S. Samatar 


Climate 59 

Terrain, Vegetation, and Drainage 60 



Samaal 74 

Digil and Rahanwayn 77 

Riverine and Coastal People of Non-Somali Origin . . 79 

Specialized Occupational Groups 82 

Social Change 82 




The Tenets of Islam 96 

Religious Roles in Somali Islam 97 

Religious Orders and the Cult of 

the Saints 97 

Folk Islam and Indigenous Ritual 100 

Islam in the Colonial Era and After 102 

Rising Islamism 104 


Language 104 

Education 106 




Chapter 3. The Economy 119 

David D. Laitin 









1981-90 132 



Land 136 

Energy 137 

Transportation 138 

Communications 140 


Export of Labor 141 

Export of Livestock 142 

Rural Subsistence Sector 142 

Urban Subsistence and Government 

Employment 144 

Undeveloped Sectors 146 

Foreign Trade 148 

Chapter 4. Government and Politics 151 

Eric Hooglund 


Constitution 157 

Legislature 158 

Local Government 159 

Legal System 160 

Courts 161 


Opposition Movements 164 

Politics of Reconciliation 167 

Politics of Succession 168 

Political of Disintegration 170 



Relations with Neighboring African States 172 

Relations with Arab Countries 174 

Relations with the United States 176 

Other Foreign Relations 177 

Chapter 5. National Security 179 

Thomas Ofcansky 


Irredentism and the Changing Balance 

of Power 182 


The Ogaden War: Performance and Implications of 

Defeat 184 

Postwar Status of the Armed Forces 186 


Government Security Policy 187 

Sources of Opposition 189 



The Warrior Tradition and Development 

of the Modern Army 196 

The Armed Forces in National Life 202 

Mission, Organization, and Strength 204 

Manpower, Training, and Conditions 

of Service 206 



Somali Police Force 214 

People's Militia 216 

National Security Service 217 


Penal System 218 

Prison System 219 


Appendix. Tables 227 

Bibliography 237 

Glossary 261 

Index 265 

List of Figures 

1 Administrative Divisions of Somalia, 1992 xx 

2 Colonial Boundaries, 1891-1960 12 

3 Topography and Drainage 62 

4 Major Clan-Families and Clans 72 

5 Refugee Camps in Somalia, 1990 114 

6 Transportation System, 1992 140 



Like its predecessor, this study is an attempt to treat in a con- 
cise and objective manner the dominant historical, social, politi- 
cal, economic, and military aspects of contemporary Somali society. 
Sources of information included scholarly journals and monographs, 
official reports of government and international organizations, 
newspapers, and numerous periodicals. Chapter bibliographies ap- 
pear at the end of the book; brief comments on some of the more 
valuable sources suggested as possible further reading appear at 
the end of each chapter. Measurements are given in the metric sys- 
tem; a conversion table is provided to assist those readers who are 
unfamiliar with metric measurements (see table 1, Appendix). A 
glossary is also included. 

Place-names generally have been spelled in accordance with those 
established by the United States Board on Geographic Names and 
the Permanent Committee on Geographic Names for British Offi- 
cial Use, known as the BGN/PCGN system. The spelling of other 
proper names conforms to the current usage in the country or to 
the most authoritative available sources. 

Because Somalia has been in a state of virtual anarchy since the 
fall of the regime of Mahammad Siad Barre in January 1991 (and, 
actually, to a considerable degree since the outbreak of civil war 
in the latter 1980s), the lack of functioning government institu- 
tions has meant that statistics tend to be unreliable or nonexistent. 
Therefore, statistics cited in the text or tables in the appendix should 
be viewed with caution. 

The arrival in Somalia in December 1992 of United States mili- 
tary forces, together with forces from other United Nations mem- 
ber states, has resulted in detailed Western press coverage of 
Somalia. However, much background data continued to be lack- 
ing; this volume attempts to fill in that gap. 

The body of the text reflects information available as of mid- 1992. 
Certain other portions of the text, however, have been updated. 
The Introduction discusses significant events that have occurred 
since the completion of research, the Country Profile includes up- 
dated information as available, and the Bibliography includes re- 
cently published sources thought to be particularly helpful to the 


Country Profile 


Formal Name: Somali Democratic Republic. 
Short Form: Somalia 

Term for Citizens: Somali (pi., Somalis). 
Capital: Mogadishu. 

NOTE-The Country Profile contains updated information as available. 



Size: Land area 637,540 square kilometers; coastline 3,025 kilometers; 
sovereignty claimed over territorial waters up to 200 nautical miles. 

Topography: Flat plateau surfaces and plains predominate; prin- 
cipal exception rugged east-west ranges in far north that include 
Shimbir Berris, highest point at 2,407 meters. 

Climate and Hydrology: Continuously hot except at higher ele- 
vations in north; two wet seasons bring erratic rainfall, largely April 
to June and October and November, averaging under 500 milli- 
meters in much of the country; droughts frequent; only Jubba River 
in somewhat wetter southwest has permanent water flow. Shabeelle 
River, also in southwest, flows about seven months of year. 


Population: Estimates vary; United Nations 1991 estimate shows 
population of 7.7 million not including Ethiopian refugees, but other 
estimates place at 8.4 million in mid- 1990. Until early 1990s, 
predominantly nomadic pastoralists and seminomadic herders made 
up about three-fifths of total; cultivators, about one-fifth; town 
dwellers (vast majority in Mogadishu), about one-fifth. Pattern of 
residency dramatically altered by civil war in late 1980s onward, 
raising urban population of Mogadishu to 2 million. 

Languages: Somali (script officially introduced January 1973) 
predominates. Several dialects; Common Somali most widely used; 
Coastal Somali spoken on the Banaadir coast; Central Somali 
spoken in the interriverine area. English and Italian used by rela- 
tively small proportion (less than 10 percent) of urban population. 
Arabic used in religious contexts. 

Ethnic Groups: Most nationals ethnic Somalis; traditionally divid- 
ed into Samaal descent groups, consisting of four pastoral nomad- 
ic clan-families (Dir, Daarood, Isaaq, and Hawiye) and two 
agricultural clan-families (Digil and Rahanwayn living mainly in 
south on or between Jubba and Shabeelle rivers.) In 1991 central- 
ized state disintegrated into its constituent lineages and clans. 

Religion: Former Somali state officially Islamic; overwhelming 
majority of nationals Sunni Muslims (less than 1 percent Chris- 
tian). Activist Islamism increasing in some areas. 

Education and Literacy: Until 1991 modern public education 
offered free at all levels; nationally owned educational facilities closed 
after collapse of Somali state; school attendance grew rapidly in 


settled areas in 1970s; primary education extended to nomadic chil- 
dren in early 1980s. Literacy campaigns resulted in substantial in- 
creases in 1970s but less than government's estimate of 60 percent, 
with relapse among nomads by 1977; United Nations estimate 
showed 24 percent literacy rate in 1990. 

Health: Improvement in numbers of health care personnel and 
facilities during 1970s offset by civil war, refugee burden, and failure 
to expand services beyond urban areas; weak modern medical 
infrastructure deteriorated dramatically after 1991 collapse of central 
government. High incidence of pulmonary tuberculosis, malaria, 
tetanus, parasitic and venereal infections, leprosy, and a variety 
of skin and eye ailments; relatively low incidence of human im- 
munodeficiency virus (HIV) (less than 1 percent) through 1992; 
general health severely affected by widespread malnutrition and 
famine in 1992. 


Salient Features: Formerly socialist-oriented economy undergo- 
ing market- oriented structural adjustment until 1991. Stabilization 
and macroeconomic adjustment programs implemented during 
1980s under auspices of international credit and aid agencies. 
Privatization of wholesale trade and financial sectors largely com- 
plete by 1991; economic growth sporadic and uneven across sec- 
tors. Most economic activity disrupted by breakdown of Somali 
state in 1991. 

Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, and Fisheries: Crop and 
livestock production, forestry, and fisheries accounted for bulk of 
gross domestic product (GDP) in 1991; livestock predominant 
agricultural export, also important source of animal products (most- 
ly milk) for internal markets and subsistence. Crop cultivation domi- 
nated by rural subsistence sector, which generated sufficient 
surpluses to sustain domestic informal markets and barter econo- 
my until 1990. Main crops: sorghum, corn; incipient production 
of mild narcotic qat suppressed by central government during 
mid-1980s. Small plantation sector dedicated primarily to export 
of bananas and sugarcane. Domestic grain supply supplemented 
by international food aid. Small forestry sector dominated by 
production for export of frankincense and myrrh. Fisheries produc- 
tion showed modest growth during 1980s but remained minor eco- 
nomic activity. Agricultural activity severely curtailed as result of 
drought and breakdown of Somali state in 1991. 


Mining: Mining contribution to GDP negligible (0.3 percent of 
GDP in 1988) despite substantial deposits of gypsum-anhydrite, 
quartz and piezoquartz, uranium, and iron ore. Meerschaum (sepi- 
olite) mined; gold deposits suspected but not confirmed. 

Manufacturing: Small manufacturing sector, based primarily on 
processing of agricultural products, consisted of few large state en- 
terprises, hundreds of medium- sized private firms, and thousands 
of small-scale informal operations. Large-scale enterprises dedicated 
mainly to processing of sugar, milk, and hides and skins. Overall 
manufacturing output declined during 1980s as result of failure 
of inefficient state enterprises under market conditions. Manufac- 
turing activity further curtailed by civil war and collapse of Soma- 
li state. By 1990 manufacturing ceased to play significant role in 
economy (about 5 percent of GDP). 

Energy: Domestic wood, charcoal, and imported petroleum provid- 
ed basic sources of energy; significant hydroelectric potential of Jub- 
ba River remained unexploited; four small-scale wind turbine 
generators operated in Mogadishu. Prior to civil war, eighty state- 
owned oil-fired and diesel power plants provided electricity to cit- 
ies and towns. Refining capacity limited to one refinery. Foreign 
oil supplies erratic throughout 1980s. United Nations Development 
Programme hydrocarbon study in 1991 indicated good potential 
for oil and gas deposits in northern Somalia. 

Foreign Trade: Exports consisted of agricultural raw materials and 
food products. Livestock and bananas principal exports, followed 
by hides and skins, fish and fish products, and myrrh. Trade balance 
remained negative throughout 1980s and early 1990s. Principal 
imports in descending order: food, transportation equipment, 
nonelectrical machinery, cement and building materials, and iron 
and steel. Italy and Arab states main destinations of exports; Italy 
main country of origin for imported Somali goods in 1990; other 
minor suppliers included Norway, Bahrain, and Britain. 

Currency: Somali shilling. During 1980s currency alternated be- 
tween fixed and floating rates; as of March 31, 1992, US$1 equaled 
3,800 shillings. 


Railroads: None. 

Roads: One paved road extends from Berbera in north through 
Mogadishu to Chisimayu. Roads of all categories totaled 21,000 


kilometers in 1990: 2,600 kilometers paved, 2,900 kilometers gravel; 
15,500 kilometers improved earth (stretches frequently impas- 
sable in rainy seasons). Highway infrastructure insufficient to open 
up isolated areas or to link isolated regions. 

Civil Aviation: Eight paved civilian airfields; fewer than twenty 
additional widely-scattered gravel airfields. International airport 
at Mogadishu contains 4,500-meter runway. In 1990 domestic ser- 
vice linked Mogadishu with seven other Somali cities. Somali 
Airlines owned one Airbus 310 in 1989. No scheduled service ex- 
isted in 1992. 

Ports and Shipping: Four major ports: deepwater facilities at Ber- 
bera, Mogadishu, and Chisimayu; lighterage port at Merca; minor 
port at Maydh. Port modernization program launched in latter half 
of 1980s with United States aid significantly improved cargo han- 
dling capabilities at Chisimayu, and increased number of berths 
and deepened harbor at Berbera. 

Government and Politics 

Government Structure: Country nominally under interim provi- 
sional government established by Executive Committee of United 
Somali Congress (USC) and headed by provisional president Ali 
Mahdi Mahammad after fall of Mahammad Siad Barre. As of Sep- 
tember 1991 , country effectively under control of as many as twelve 
rival clans and subclans. Central government authority at 
Mogadishu challenged by Somali National Movement (SNM), 
which in June 1991 declared independent Republic of Somaliland 
in former territory of British Somaliland. Constitution of 1979 nomi- 
nally in force pending new constitution proposed by provisional 
government. Constitutionally mandated national legislature known 
as People's Assembly inactive since January 1991. 

Administrative Divisions: Prior to fall of Siad Barre regime in 
January 1991, sixteen administrative regions, each containing three 
to six districts, with exception of capital region that was subdivid- 
ed into fifteen districts, for total of eighty-four districts. Local 
government authority vested in regional and district councils whose 
members were elected, but whose candidature approved by district- 
level government. High level of military participation in regional 
and district councils. Ministry of Local Government and Rural De- 
velopment exercised authority over structure of local government. 
From 1991 onward, no effective government organization existed. 


Politics: During 1980s authoritarian regime of President Maham- 
mad Siad Barre abandoned policy of scientific socialism on Marxist- 
Leninist lines and implemented market-oriented structural reforms 
of economy, while consolidating personal political authority. Broad- 
based national opposition met escalating government repression 
and provoked armed revolt in 1988 led by USC and SNM. Civil 
war caused eventual defeat of government forces and exile of Siad 
Barre in January 1991. USC faction led by General Mahammad 
Faarah Aidid contested authority of USC Executive Committee 
to form interim government and established rival government in 
southern Mogadishu, compelling Mahammad' s government to 
retreat to northern Mogadishu. As of January 1993, country ef- 
fectively fragmented under control of as many as twelve contend- 
ing clan-families and clans. 

Judicial System: Four-tier court system — Supreme Court, courts 
of appeal, regional courts, and district courts — based on Western 
models. Separate National Security Courts operating outside or- 
dinary legal system and under direct control of executive given 
broad jurisdiction over offenses defined by government as affect- 
ing state security, until abolished in October 1990. Unified penal 
and civil law codes introduced in late 1960s and early 1970s, but 
some features of Islamic law considered in civil matters. 

Foreign Relations: Foreign relations characterized by tension with 
neighboring states and economic dependence on aid from Arab and 
Western nations. Relations with neighboring states gradually im- 
proved as irredentist claims dating from pre-Ogaden War period 
(1977-78) formally abandoned during 1980s; despite 1988 peace 
agreement, relations with Ethiopia remained strained resulting from 
mutual harboring of foreign guerrilla forces and uncontrolled mass 
migration. Relations with Western nations and United States broad- 
ened after 1977 rift with Soviet Union; United States military and 
economic aid provided throughout 1980s but suspended in 1989 
because of human rights violations by Siad Barre government. 
Recipient of financial support from conservative Arab oil states. 

National Security 

Armed Forces: As of January 1991, Somali National Army and 
all related military and security forces disbanded; indeterminate 
elements reconstituted as clan militias and irregular regional forces. 

Major Tactical Units: Until January 1991, Army ground forces 
organized into twelve divisions composed of four tank brigades, 


forty-five mechanized and infantry brigades, four commando 
brigades, one surface-to-air missile brigade, three field artillery 
brigades, thirty field battalions, and one air defense battalion. Poor 
serviceability of obsolete equipment of Soviet and United States 
origin. Somali Air Force organized into three fighter ground at- 
tack squadrons; three fighter squadrons; one counterinsurgency 
squadron; one transport squadron; and one helicopter squadron. 
None believed to be operational in 1992. Small, poorly equipped 
naval force not believed to be operational. 

Major Military Suppliers: Exclusively supplied by Soviet Union 
until 1977 when Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was ter- 
minated. Subsequentiy Somalia improved relations with United 
States and received average of US$36 to $US40 million per year 
of United States military assistance between 1983 and 1986. Lev- 
els of military aid during 1980s insufficient to avert deterioration 
and collapse of Somali armed forces by 1991. 

Military Costs: Military expenditures totaled about US$44.5 mil- 
lion annually for 1980-90 decade. Military procurement supported 
largely by foreign financial assistance and military aid. 

Paramilitary and Internal Security Forces: Somali Police Force, 
People's Militia, and National Security Service disbanded as of 
January 1991. 


Figure 1. Administrative Divisions of Somalia, 1992 



THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE in present-day Somalia have an an- 
cient history. The medieval Arabs called them Berberi, and ar- 
chaeological evidence indicates that they had occupied the area 
known as the Horn of Africa by A.D. 100 and possibly earlier. 
By the eighteenth century, the Somalis — their name derives from 
Samaal, their eponymous ancestor — had developed pastoral 
nomadism and were followers of Islam. Their first contact with 
Islam is believed to have occurred when a group of persecuted Mus- 
lims from Arabia sought refuge in the region at the time of the 
Prophet Muhammad in the eighth century. Historically, the area 
was home to two peoples: pastoral and agropastoral groups living 
in the interior, with informal and varied political structures; and 
trading communities on the coast, such as Seylac and Berbera in 
the north and Merca and Mogadishu in the south, that developed 
administrative and legal systems based on the Muslim sharia. 

The Somalis or Samaal consist of six major clan-families (see 
Glossary). Four of the families are predominantly pastoral — the 
Dir, Daarood, Isaaq, and Hawiye (representing about 70 percent 
of Somalia's population) — and two are agricultural — the Digil and 
Rahanwayn (constituting about 20 percent of the population). The 
remainder of the population consists of urban dwellers and mar- 
ginal non- Samaal groups, most of whom engage in trade or crafts 
and who historically have lacked political participation and the 
Samaal warrior tradition. 

The Digil and the Rahanwayn are located mainly in the south 
in the area between the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers, the best agricul- 
tural area. The rest of the country consists primarily of arid plateaus 
and plains, with some rugged mountains in the north near the Gulf 
of Aden coast. Because of sparse rainfall, nomadic pastoralism has 
been the principal occupation of clan-families in much of the 

Historically, Somalis have shown a fierce independence, an un- 
willingness to submit to authority, a strong clan consciousness, and 
conflict among clans and subclans despite their sharing a common 
language, religion, and pastoral customs. Clans are integral to 
Somali life. Clan consciousness has been described as centering 
around the struggle for recognition in all its forms — social, politi- 
cal, economic, and cultural rights and status. Despite this clan con- 
sciousness, the Somali community historically preserved its basic 
unity because of the relative homogeneity of the society. 


Over the centuries, the Somali Peninsula and the East African 
coast were subject to various rulers, including the Omanis, the Zan- 
zibaris, the sharifs of Mukha in present-day Yemen, and the Ot- 
toman Turks. By 1885, Somali lands were under five rules: the 
north central part controlled by the British; the northwest (mainly 
present-day Djibouti) controlled by the French; the south, controlled 
by the Italians; the Ogaden in the west controlled by Ethiopia; and 
the southwestern part that became a part of Kenya (known as the 
Northern Frontier District). This colonial control continued in var- 
ious forms until Somalia gained its independence in 1960. 

The British and Italians followed different courses in their colonial 
administration. The British regarded northern Somalia mainly as 
a source of livestock for Aden, the principal supply post en route 
to India through the Suez Canal, whereas the Italians developed 
plantation agriculture based on bananas, citrus fruits, and sugar- 
cane in southern Somalia. Between 1900 and 1920, while Italy and 
Britain were consolidating their colonial rule, a Muslim resistance 
movement arose under Mahammad Abdille Hasan, whom the Brit- 
ish called the Mad Mullah. Until he died in 1920, Hasan, a mem- 
ber of the Salihiyah brotherhood, and his followers constituted a 
dervish group that waged war originally against Ethiopia, and later 
against the British, seeking to regain the Ogaden for Somalis. 

Early in World War II, Italy invaded British Somaliland and 
ejected the British. British forces retook the colony in 1941 and 
conquered Italian Somaliland and the Ogaden as well, placing all 
three areas under British military administration. The Potsdam 
Conference in 1945 decided not to return Italian Somaliland to 
Italy; ultimately, the matter was referred to the United Nations 
(UN) General Assembly, which decided in 1949 to make the 
southern area an Italian trust territory. Meanwhile, under pres- 
sure from its World War II allies, Britain returned the Ogaden 
to Ethiopia in 1948, to the dismay of Somalis because the majori- 
ty of the inhabitants were Somalis. 

Nationalism had been growing in Somalia, largely as a result 
of the efforts of salaried Somali colonial officials who constituted 
an urban petty bourgeoisie. In 1943 the first Somali political party, 
the Somali Youth Club, was created. In 1947 the group changed 
its name to the Somali Youth League (SYL) and adopted the goals 
of unifying all Somali territories and opposing clannishness. Part- 
ly in response to nationalist pressures, both the Italians and the 
British took steps to improve education and health facilities, spur 
economic development, and give Somalis some experience in the 
political process. 


United States president George Bush visits United States 
forces in Somalia, January 1, 1993. 
United Nations secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali inspects UN 
forces from Pakistan at Mogadishu Airport in mid-January 1993. 

Courtesy United States Department of Defense 


Somalia's independence in 1960 faced several obstacles. Econom- 
ically, the country was obliged to rely on Italian and British subsi- 
dies; it also had to obtain other foreign loans to build an 
infrastructure and to create model farms and livestock improve- 
ment programs, all designed to increase exports. Other major ob- 
stacles included clan-family and subclan rivalries, the irredentist 
pressures to incorporate Somalis living under various administra- 
tions, and differences between residents of British and Italian 
Somaliland. These differences were of two main kinds: economic 
(pastoral nomadism with its tending of flocks as opposed to plan- 
tation agriculture) and political (northern Somalis were less ex- 
perienced in administration and political participation than their 
counterparts in the south). Furthermore, the new Somali consti- 
tution did not include strategies designed to move citizens away 
from clan loyalties and toward national objectives. For example, 
the Iise clan of the Dir clan-family had devised a system by which 
the smallest clan was given a special role: that of providing the over- 
all clan leader and also of being responsible for settling disputes. 
Such an approach could have served as a model for the Western 
framers of the Somali constitution. 

As a result of clan-family dissensions, one of the major objec- 
tives of the Somali government after independence became that 
of national integration. This objective was accompanied by the ef- 
forts of the first president, Abdirashiid Ali Shermaarke, to promote 
a Greater Somalia. In seeking to distance itself from its colonial 
past, the new government cultivated relations with the Soviet Un- 
ion and Eastern Europe. Soviet influence prevailed, particularly 
in the armed forces, and later the German Democratic Republic 
(East Germany) established the National Security Service (NSS). 
The police force, however, was trained primarily by the Federal 
Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the United States. The 
1969 elections for the National Assembly demonstrated the Soma- 
li characteristic of independence: sixty-four political parties par- 
ticipated, some of them as small as one man. The SYL, however, 
dominated the field. The elections revealed that various groups, 
especially the military, had become increasingly critical of govern- 
ment corruption and nepotism. 

The October 1969 killing of President Shermaarke by one of his 
bodyguards led the army, which had previously avoided political 
participation, to take over under army commander Major Gener- 
al Mahammad Siad Barre. The new governing body, the Supreme 
Revolutionary Council (SRC), named Siad Barre president. 
Retroactively, to facilitate continued Soviet aid, the SRC indicat- 
ed it was pursuing scientific socialism, although Somalia lacked 


the infrastructure appropriate to Marxist socialism. Among the new 
government's objectives were breaking up the old regions (adminis- 
trative units) into smaller entities and resettling many of the nomads 
in farming and fishing cooperatives. The government also sought 
to promote nationalist and socialist goals by appointing "peacekeep- 
ers" to replace the traditional elders and by creating various com- 
mittees in place of clan groups. With reference to the legal system, 
Siad Barre eliminated codes that gave clans land, water, and grazing 
rights. He also abolished the Islamic payment of blood money (diya) 
for injuries. Presumably, all these steps were designed to break down 
the traditional clan structure and strengthen the personal control 
of Siad Barre, as well as to weaken the role of religious leaders. 

Although Siad Barre proclaimed scientific socialism compatible 
with Islam, his regime attempted to reduce the influence, particu- 
larly in politics, of Muslim leaders. Historically, clans had relied 
on itinerant religious teachers and on religiously devout males, 
known as wadaddo, who generally were the only literate individu- 
als and who often occupied judicial roles. These religious functions 
were supplemented by Sufi religious orders or brotherhoods, whose 
leaders were more learned than the wadaddo. The best known of 
the latter was Mahammad Abdille Hasan, the early twentieth- 
century leader of the revolt against the British. In the first half of 
the twentieth century, religious teachers provided most of Somali 
education through Quranic schools that gave minimal literacy in- 
struction. A major difficulty was the absence of an agreed-upon 
orthography for the Somali language until the government decreed 
one in 1973. The government undertook a huge literacy campaign 
thereafter and established numerous primary schools, some second- 
ary schools, and a university. As of 1990, Somalia had 4,600 univer- 
sity students. 

Whereas in its early years the SRC devoted considerable atten- 
tion to such fields as education and economics, later a major part 
of its activity related to the political sphere. Despite the SRC's 
denunciation of clannishness, the clans connected with Siad Barre 
and his family became sufficiently prominent to be dubbed the 
MOD (Mareehaan-Ogaden-Dulbahante — the name of Siad Barre 's 
clan, his mother's clan, and his son-in-law's clan, respectively). 
Initially, the SRC outlawed political parties, but in 1976 Siad Barre 
dissolved the SRC (it was later revived) and created one national 
party, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP). The party 
in practice occupied a largely ceremonial position; actual power 
remained with Siad Barre. 

To entrench his personal rule and in an attempt to regain the 
Ogaden, Siad Barre launched the Ogaden War against Ethiopia 


in 1977. The war officially ended in 1978, but low-level conflict 
continued with border raids and skirmishes for years afterward. 
Somalia experienced defeat and the death of 8,000 men, the in- 
flux of about 650,000 ethnic Somali and Ethiopian Oromo refu- 
gees, and a severe drain on its economy. The economic drain was 
caused by the purchase of military materiel to replace equipment 
lost in the war — three-quarters of Somalia's armored units and one- 
half of its air force. Having lost its alliance with the Soviet Union, 
which shifted its support to Ethiopia during the war, Somalia sought 
military aid from the United States. The latter, following the fall 
of the shah of Iran in 1979, was eager to bolster defenses in the 
Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean area. As a result, in return for the Unit- 
ed States provision of arms and military training, in 1980 the United 
States and Somalia concluded a military access agreement by which 
the United States could use Somali ports and airfields in the event 
of a crisis. The expansion of its armed forces, which grew from 
5,000 troops at independence to 65,000 in 1990, also sapped Soma- 
lia's economy; for example, 30 percent of the national budget went 
for the military in the mid-1980s. 

To develop the economy, in the early years of his regime Siad 
Barre launched several development plans, created agricultural and 
fishing cooperatives, and began establishing food processing plants. 
Somalia's foreign debt, however, increased at a tremendous rate 
as a result of the 1977-78 Ogaden War. Unable to call on the Soviet 
Union for aid, the Siad Barre regime turned for economic aid to 
the West, to oil-producing Arab states such as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi 
Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and to the World Bank 
(see Glossary). The economic crisis forced Somalia to devalue its 
currency and to encourage privatization. Economic output from 
agriculture and manufacturing, however, showed little progress and 
in some cases declined, partly as a result of intermittent droughts. 
The country lacked any energy sources, apart from wood and char- 
coal, despite surveys that indicated the likelihood of oil offshore 
in the Gulf of Aden. Moreover, its transportation and communi- 
cations networks were minimal. In addition to livestock and agricul- 
tural products, which have constituted the bulk of Somalia's exports, 
the country did have a number of undeveloped sectors, however. 
Among the chief of these were forestry (myrrh and frankincense 
were among Somalia's exports), fishing, and mineral deposits, in- 
cluding uranium. 

Following the Ogaden War, Siad Barre recognized that to gain 
Western support he needed to create a political system that would 
appear to restore many civil rights that had been eliminated by 
the military regime. Accordingly, the constitution of 1979 provided 


Somali men unloading sacks 
of Australian wheat outside 
Malaile, northwest of 
Chisimayu, January 1993; 
United States Marine CH-53 
Sea Stallion helicopter hovers 
in background about to deliver. 
Courtesy United States 
Department of Defense 

Sorghum destined for Baidoa 
being unloaded from British 
C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft, 
January 1993 
Courtesy United States 
Department of Defense 


for freedom of speech, religion, publication, and assembly, but these 
rights were subject to major qualifications. The constitution made 
the president both head of state and head of government, with broad 
powers to conduct foreign affairs, serve as commander in chief of 
the armed forces, appoint various ministers and leading officials, 
and dissolve the legislature. Members of a single-chamber legisla- 
ture, the People's Assembly, served a five-year term, with the 
government drawing up official lists of candidates and the assem- 
bly occupying a largely symbolic position. On the local govern- 
ment level, Siad Barre had dissolved all elected bodies following 
the military coup and required that all candidates for election be 
approved by the central government. The constitution confirmed 
the National Security Courts introduced by Siad Barre; these courts 
had jurisdiction over numerous cases and supplemented the regu- 
lar courts. Siad Barre appointed only military officers to the High 
Court, thus bringing the judiciary under the executive. 

Another result of the Ogaden War was the rise of several or- 
ganized internal opposition movements. To counter them, Siad 
Barre undertook increasingly repressive measures, including mea- 
sures that involved numerous human rights violations. After judg- 
ing a number of Majeerteen members of the military guilty of a 
coup attempt in 1978, Siad Barre initiated a campaign against the 
clan-family, using the Red Berets, an elite unit that served as his 
bodyguard. Several Majeerteen colonels escaped and fled abroad, 
where in 1978 they formed the Somali Salvation Front, renamed 
in 1979 the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). This was 
the first opposition movement dedicated to overthrowing the re- 
gime by force. 

Siad Barre then turned on the Isaaq in the north, who were dis- 
contented because they felt inadequately represented in his govern- 
ment. Isaaq dissidents in London had formed the Somali National 
Movement (SNM) in 1981 to topple Siad Barre 's regime. In 1982 
they transferred their headquarters to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, from 
where they conducted guerrilla raids against Somali government- 
held territory. Siad Barre 's campaign against the Isaaq was par- 
ticularly bloody; it included the 1988 destruction by bombing of 
Hargeysa, Somalia's major northern city, causing the flight to 
neighboring countries of tens of thousands of refugees. Next, Siad 
Barre attacked the Hawiye in the central area around Mogadishu. 
The Hawiye had meanwhile formed their own opposition move- 
ment, the United Somali Congress (USC), which received sup- 
port from the SNM. 

Siad Barre thus progressively alienated an increasing number 
of clans, including some, such as the Ogaden, that originally had 


given him strong support. The Ogaden blamed him for Somalia's 
defeat in the Ogaden War and opposed his 1988 peace treaty and 
resumption of diplomatic relations with Ethiopia. As a result of 
Siad Barre's actions, many Ogaden officers deserted from the army 
and joined the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), an opposition 
group that had been formed in 1985 and that also received SNM 

The various opposition groups waged relatively intense warfare 
against the national army during Siad Barre's final three years in 
office and gained control of extensive government areas: the SNM 
in the northwest, the USC in the center, and the SPM in the south. 
Africa Watch reported that 50,000 unarmed civilians were killed 
in the course of Siad Barre's various reprisals against the Majeer- 
teen, Isaaq, and Hawiye. Thousands more died of starvation result- 
ing from the poisoning of waterwells and the slaughtering of cattle. 
In addition, hundreds of thousands sought refuge outside the 

Following a July 1989 demonstration in Mogadishu in which 
about 450 persons were killed by government forces, leaders from 
various sectors of society, representing all clan-families, formed the 
Council for National Reconstruction and Salvation to press for po- 
litical change. In May 1990, they published a manifesto calling 
for Siad Barre's resignation, the establishment of an interim gov- 
ernment representing opposition movements, and a timetable for 
multiparty elections. Siad Barre ordered the arrest of the 114 sig- 
natories, but the security forces could only locate 45 persons. For- 
eign protests over their detention forced their release. Meanwhile, 
the opposition groups recognized the need to hold talks among them- 
selves to coordinate strategy; time, however, did not allow mutual 
trust to develop. 

Opposition forces defeated Siad Barre's regime on January 27, 
1991. Long before the government collapsed, however, the armed 
forces, the police force, the People's Militia, government minis- 
tries, and institutions such as the People's Assembly, schools, and 
health facilities, for all practical purposes, had ceased to operate. 
Siad Barre fled Mogadishu, and, after a stay in Kenya, ultimately 
sought refuge in Nigeria. The USC announced the formation of 
a provisional government in February 1991, with Ali Mahdi Ma- 
hammad of the Hawiye clan-family as president and Umar Arteh 
Ghalib, of the Isaaq clan-family, as prime minister. However, for- 
mer army commander General Mahammad Faarah Aidid opposed 
Mahammad's presidency and eventually split off to form his own 
USC faction. The provisional USC government created a Minis- 
try of Constitutional Affairs charged with planning a constitutional 


convention and revising the constitution. Meanwhile, provisions 
of the constitution of 1979 that had not been specifically voided 
by the provisional government remained in force. The provision- 
al government also announced its intention of restoring judicial 

The USC's establishment of a provisional government angered 
other opposition groups who felt they had not been consulted. In 
the subsequent clashes, the SSDF and the SPM aligned themselves 
against the USC . In the course of the fighting, control of various 
towns such as Chisimayu and Baidoa changed hands several times. 
A number of cease-fires were announced between early April 1991 
and the latter part of 1992, but none remained in effect long. 

Meanwhile, in the north the SNM refused to participate in the 
unity talks proposed by the USC. In May 1991, the SNM 
proclaimed the Republic of Somaliland as an interim government, 
pending 1993 elections, and decreed the sharia as its legal base. 
As of early 1993, the Republic of Somaliland had not been recog- 
nized by any foreign government. Moreover, the government has 
proved ineffective in establishing its authority throughout the region 
of former British Somaliland that it claims to control. 

In the Mogadishu area, each of the opposition groups drew sup- 
port from a particular clan and each resorted to arms to further 
its claims. The result was disintegration of government, civil soci- 
ety, and essential services by September 1991 if not earlier. Seri- 
ous fighting in Mogadishu began in September 1991, intensified 
in November, and by the end of March 1992 was estimated by 
Africa Watch to have caused 14,000 deaths and 27,000 wounded. 
Mahammad, a member of the Abgaal clan of the Hawiye clan- 
family and leader of one USC faction that had a force of about 
5,000 fighters, gained control of northern Mogadishu. He was 
challenged primarily by Aidid, of the Habar Gidir clan of the 
Hawiye, who led a USC faction of about 10,000 guerrillas that ad- 
vocated cooperation with the SNM. During 1991 and 1992, out- 
side parties, such as Djibouti, the League of Arab States, the 
Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic 
Conference, and the United Nations made numerous unsuccess- 
ful attempts to end the fighting in Mogadishu. 

The situation in the country as a whole deteriorated rapidly, as 
a result not only of the civil war but also of the drought in central 
and southern Somalia that left hundreds of thousands starving. By 
August 1992, Somali refugees were reliably estimated at 500,000 in 
Ethiopia, 300,000 in Kenya, 65,000 in Yemen, 15,000 in Djibouti, 
and about 100,000 in Europe. The civil war destroyed Somalia's 
infrastructure and brought all economic activities, apart from 


Russian aircrew personnel at Mogadishu Airport unload some 
prefabricated roofs for shelters from a Russian AH-124 
as United States Air Force personnel look on. 
United States Marines escort a UN food convoy from Mogadishu to 

Baidoa, January 1993. 
Courtesy United States Department of Defense 


minimal subsistence agriculture, herding, and internal trade, to 
a virtual halt. Following an official visit to Somalia in early Au- 
gust 1992 by Muhammad Sahnoun, the UN Special Representa- 
tive, and Bernard Kouchner, the French minister of health and 
humanitarian action, an estimate was released that approximately 
one-fourth of the population, about 1.5 million people, was in 
danger of death by starvation. Other estimates ran as high as one- 
third of the population. A United States Centers for Disease Con- 
trol study further showed that in the city of Baidoa at least 40 per- 
cent of the August 1992 population had died between August 9 
and November 14; relief organizations estimated that as of Sep- 
tember, 25 percent of all Somali children under five years of age 
had died. 

The problem of food distribution to the starving was aggravat- 
ed by armed bandits, frequently under the influence of qat, a mildly 
stimulating narcotic that was grown in several areas of East Afri- 
ca. These bandits, who recognized no authority except occasion- 
ally that of local warlords, looted warehouses in Mogadishu and 
other major centers as well as shipments of food to the interior. 
The rise of local warlords, who controlled the cities, including har- 
bors and airports, as opposed to traditional clan leaders, clan coun- 
cils, and clan-recruited militias in the hinterland, was a relatively 
new phenomenon in Somali society. Their rise has been attribut- 
ed to the breakdown of central government authority and the lack 
of strong, well-organized opposition parties. The availability of vast 
quantities of arms in the country from earlier Soviet and United 
States arming of Somalia (between the early 1980s and mid- 1990, 
the United States provided Somalia with US$403 million in mili- 
tary aid), from the large caches of arms gained in gray and black 
markets, and from the cross-border trade, particularly in ammu- 
nition, as well as the military training that the Siad Barre regime 
required all school and college graduates and civil servants to un- 
dergo further facilitated the rise of warlords. 

In response to this critical situation, UN secretary general 
Boutros-Ghali announced in early August that he would send UN 
soldiers to Somalia to protect food supplies. In mid-August Unit- 
ed States president George Bush ordered a food air lift to Soma- 
lia. In implementation of his earlier pledge to protect food aid 
convoys, on August 28 Boutros-Ghali authorized sending 3,500 
personnel in addition to a 500-man Pakistani force already autho- 
rized for Somalia. The UN mandate (including the size of the force 
and the rules of engagement) was insufficient, however, to estab- 
lish a secure environment. 


Somali villagers line up to receive food provided by UN and 

international relief organizations. 
Somalis wait near their water bottles as a container is being filled 
from a well north of Mogadishu, January 1993. 
Courtesy United States Department of Defense 


After a number of delays resulting from the opposition of local 
warlords, on November 10 Pakistani units were allowed to enter 
Mogadishu airport. Meanwhile, on November 21 the United States 
National Security Council decided to intervene in Somalia. It did 
so because of the scale of human disaster and the realization that 
the United States was the only nation perceived by Somalis and 
by the regional states as being in a position to maintain neutrality 
and with the ability to launch the necessary large-scale aid opera- 
tion. The first United States military units in Operation Restore 
Hope arrived in Mogadishu on December 9. They were joined by 
elements of the French Foreign Legion from Djibouti with other 
forces from Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Tur- 
key expected. To avoid contact with the foreign forces, Somali 
armed groups and their ' 'technicals" (vehicles on which an auto- 
matic weapon had been mounted) began leaving Mogadishu, thus 
exacerbating security problems in the hinterland. 

United States forces and those of their allies gradually branched 
out from the airport and harbor of Mogadishu to the surrounding 
area. In succession they secured the Soviet-built airport at Baledogle 
(halfway to Baidoa), Baidoa, and then Chisimayu, Baardheere, Od- 
dur, Beledweyne, and Jalalaqsi. The plan entailed setting up food 
distribution centers in each of the major areas affected by the fam- 
ine and bringing in large quantities of food so as to eliminate loot- 
ing and hoarding. By doing so, the operation would ensure that 
food was no longer a power chip, thereby eliminating the role of 
the warlords. As the provision of food to southern Somalia reached 
massive proportions, however, it became clear that as a result of 
the August rains and resultant domestic crop production, it would 
be necessary to sell some of the donated grain in local markets at 
a suitable price in order to safeguard the livelihood of local farm- 
ers in the hinterland. 

The question of the security of food shipments proved a difficult 
one with respect to disarming the population. By January 7, 1993, 
after completing the first stage of Operation Restore Hope, Unit- 
ed States forces began to pursue "technicals" and raid arms depots 
in order to safeguard the operation and protect United States and 
allied personnel and Somali civilians. 

In the second stage of the operation, United States political 
officers began coordinating town meetings in Mogadishu, Baidoa, 
Baardheere, and Chisimayu, encouraging Somalis to set up their 
own municipal institutions. Furthermore, United States military 
personnel cleared streets and restored municipal water systems. Ob- 
servers noted that some Somali women with a gift for reconciliation 


Children gather along a wall, next to a soldier on guard duty 
in the street of Merca, southwest of Mogadishu. 
United States Navy doctor examines a Somali infant held by her mother 
during a medical civic-action program in Mogadishu, January 1993. 

Courtesy United States Department of Defense 


were playing key roles in operating many of the food distribution 
centers established by nongovernmental organizations. 

Meanwhile, on the political level, in an effort to further recon- 
ciliation, Aidid and Mahammad met several times, as arranged 
by former United States ambassador to Somalia Robert B. Oak- 
ley, who served as special presidential envoy. On December 28, 
the two Somalis led a peace march along the Green Line separat- 
ing the two areas of Mogadishu controlled by their forces. Other 
factors complicating a political settlement were the control of Baard- 
heere by Mahammad Siad Hersi Morgan, the son-in-law of Siad 
Barre and leader of the Somali National Front, a Mareehaan or- 
ganization; and the control of Chisimayu by Colonel Ahmad Omar 
Jess, a leader allied with the SDM and the Southern Somali Na- 
tional Movement (SSNM). Jess was reliably reported to have killed 
between 100 and 200 individuals whom he regarded as potential 
enemies before United States forces reached Chisimayu. 

As a symbol of support for United States forces and their efforts 
in Somalia, President Bush arrived on New Year's Eve for a one- 
day visit and received a warm welcome from Somalis. In contrast, 
the UN secretary general faced an angry reception from Somali 
crowds on January 3. The Somalis remembered Boutros-Ghali's 
former cordial relationship with Siad Barre when Boutros-Ghali 
served as Egyptian minister of foreign affairs. They also faulted 
the UN for its long inaction in relieving the starvation in Somalia; 
voluntary organizations, particularly the International Commit- 
tee of the Red Cross, had proved more effective than the UN in 
sending food to Somalia and in setting up kitchens to feed hundreds 
of thousands daily. Despite this negative reception, on January 4 
the leaders of fourteen Somali factions attended meetings in Addis 
Ababa chaired by the UN secretary general at which the United 
States was represented. After considerable discussion, on January 
15 the faction leaders signed a cease-fire agreement and a disar- 
mament pact and called for a national reconciliation conference 
to be held in Addis Ababa on March 15. Despite the cease-fire, 
fighting and instability in Somalia continued to exist in late January. 

Because of the number of foreign forces that had joined Opera- 
tion Restore Hope — as of January 9 these numbered about 
10,000 — the first contingent of United States military personnel 
began to leave Somalia on January 19. The immediate United 
States goal was to turn over the operation as rapidly as possible to a 
UN force: UN Operations-Somalia (UNOSOM II). The United 
States was to provide the deputy commander and other staff officers, 
logistics units, and possibly the initial Quick-Reaction Force. 


With regard to Somalia's future, the role of Islamism, some- 
times referred to as fundamentalism, concerned the United States 
and some of its allies. In the north, Islamic militants, who were 
well trained and armed and supplied with funds primarily by 
wealthy Saudis, had at one time controlled the town of Bender Cas- 
sim, in the northeast but had been driven out by the SSDF. From 
Bender Cassim, the Islamists spread westward into such SNM areas 
as Hargeysa. Although Islamic militants, known as the Somali Is- 
lamic Union or popularly as Ittihad (Union), had relatively few 
supporters in Somalia, their numbers appeared to be increasing 
somewhat. In the latter months of 1992, they became active in Mer- 
ca, the seaport south of Mogadishu, where they had sought an al- 
liance with clan leaders in the SSNM, which was aligned with that 
section of the USC led by Aidid. Time would indicate whether the 
Islamists could prove effective in providing services that the govern- 
ment was not providing in such fields as education and health. If 
so, the likelihood of their gaining followers would increase greatly. 

Other steps toward the creation of what President Bush termed 
a "secure environment" included a discussion held in mid-January 
between Aidid and Mahammad on reestablishing a police force. 
The police force had traditionally commanded respect in Somalia, 
and if such a force could be reconstituted, initially in a number 
of regions but ultimately nationally, it would help diminish the pow- 
er of the warlords and restore internal order. It was also likely to 
strengthen the position of traditional clan elders. Such steps would 
be consonant with the apparent goal of the UN Security Council 
to create a national government in Somalia with sufficient authority 
to maintain security but one that allowed considerable autonomy 
to the various regions. 

The situation with regard to the relationship of the self-proclaimed 
Republic of Somaliland in the north and the rest of Somalia in the 
south remained unclear. Most knowledgeable observers noted that 
as yet there was no effective government in the northern region 
that could negotiate with the remainder of Somalia. Therefore, in 
the near future the establishment of either a federation with Somalia 
or a unitary state combining the two as in the past was unlikely. 

January 29, 1993 Helen Chapin Metz 


Chapter 1. Historical Setting 

Shaykh Abdulaziz Mosque, one of Mogadishu's oldest historical 

LOCATED IN THE HORN OF AFRICA, adjacent to the Ara- 
bian Peninsula, Somalia is steeped in thousands of years of history. 
The ancient Egyptians spoke of it as "God's Land" (the Land of 
Punt). Chinese merchants frequented the Somali coast in the tenth 
and fourteenth centuries and, according to tradition, returned home 
with giraffes, leopards, and tortoises to add color and variety to 
the imperial menagerie. Greek merchant ships and medieval Arab 
dhows plied the Somali coast; for them it formed the eastern fringe 
of Bilad as Sudan, "the Land of the Blacks." More specifically, 
medieval Arabs referred to the Somalis, along with related peo- 
ples, as the Berberi. 

By the eighteenth century, the Somalis essentially had developed 
their present way of life, which is based on pastoral nomadism and 
the Islamic faith. During the colonial period (approximately 1891 
to 1960), the Somalis were separated into five Somali regions: British 
Somaliland (north central); French Somaliland (northwest); Italian 
Somaliland (south); Ethiopian Somaliland (the Ogaden); and what 
came to be called the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya. 
In 1960 Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland were merged 
into a single independent state, the Somali Republic. In its first 
nine years, the Somali state, although plagued by territorial dis- 
putes with Ethiopia and Kenya, and by difficulties in integrating 
the dual legacy of Italian and British administrations, remained 
a model of democratic governance in Africa; governments were 
regularly voted into and out of office. Taking advantage of the 
widespread public bitterness and cynicism attendant upon the rigged 
elections of early 1969, Major General Mahammad Siad Barre 
seized power on October 21, 1969, in a bloodless coup. Over the 
next twenty-one years, Siad Barre established a military dictator- 
ship that divided and oppressed the Somalis. Siad Barre maintained 
control of the social system by playing off clan against clan until 
the country became riven with interclan strife and bloodshed. Siad 
Barre 's regime came to a disastrous end in early 1991 with the col- 
lapse of the Somali state. In the regime's place emerged armed clan 
militias fighting one another for political power. Siad Barre fled 
the capital on January 27, 1991, into the safety of his Mareehaan 
clan's territory in southern Somalia. 

The Somalis: Their Origins, Migrations, and Settlement 

A paucity of written historical evidence forces the student of early 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Somalia to depend on the findings of archeology, anthropology, 
historical linguistics, and related disciplines. Such evidence has 
provided insights that in some cases have refuted conventional ex- 
planations of the origins and evolution of the Somali people. For 
example, where historians once believed that the Somalis originated 
on the Red Sea's western coast, or perhaps in southern Arabia, 
it now seems clear that the ancestral homeland of the Somalis, 
together with affiliated Cushite peoples, was in the highlands of 
southern Ethiopia, specifically in the lake regions. Similarly, the 
once-common notion that the migration and settlement of early 
Muslim followers of the Prophet Muhammad on the Somali coast 
had a significant impact on the Somalis no longer enjoys much aca- 
demic support. Scholars now recognize that the Arab factor — except 
for the Somalis' conversion to Islam — is marginal to understand- 
ing the Somali past. Furthermore, conventional wisdom once held 
that Somali migrations followed a north-to-south route; the reverse 
of this now appears to be nearer the truth. 

Increasingly, evidence places the Somalis within a wide family 
of peoples called Eastern Cushites by modern linguists and described 
earlier in some instances as Hamites. From a broader cultural- 
linguistic perspective, the Cushite family belongs to a vast stock 
of languages and peoples considered Afro-Asiatic. Afro-Asiatic lan- 
guages in turn include Cushitic (principally Somali, Oromo, and 
Afar), the Hausa language of Nigeria, and the Semitic languages 
of Arabic, Hebrew, and Amharic. Medieval Arabs referred to the 
Eastern Cushites as the Berberi. 

In addition to the Somalis, the Cushites include the largely no- 
madic Afar (Danakil), who straddle the Great Rift Valley between 
Ethiopia and Djibouti; the Oromo, who have played such a large 
role in Ethiopian history and in the 1990s constituted roughly one- 
half of the Ethiopian population and were also numerous in northern 
Kenya; the Reendille (Rendilli) of Kenya; and the Aweera (Boni) 
along the Lamu coast in Kenya. The Somalis belong to a subbranch 
of the Cushites, the Omo-Tana group, whose languages are almost 
mutually intelligible. The original home of the Omo-Tana group 
appears to have been on the Omo and Tana rivers, in an area ex- 
tending from Lake Turkana in present-day northern Kenya to the 
Indian Ocean coast. 

The Somalis form a subgroup of the Omo-Tana called Sam. Hav- 
ing split from the main stream of Cushite peoples about the first 
half of the first millennium B.C., the proto-Sam appear to have 
spread to the grazing plains of northern Kenya, where proto-Sam 
communities seem to have followed the Tana River and to have 
reached the Indian Ocean coast well before the first century A.D. 


Historical Setting 

On the coast, the proto-Sam splintered further; one group (the Boni) 
remained on the Lamu Archipelago, and the other moved north- 
ward to populate southern Somalia. There the group's members 
eventually developed a mixed economy based on farming and 
animal husbandry, a mode of life still common in southern Soma- 
lia. Members of the proto-Sam who came to occupy the Somali 
Peninsula were known as the so-called Samaale, or Samaal, a clear 
reference to the mythical father figure of the main Somali clan- 
families, whose name gave rise to the term Somali. 

The Samaal again moved farther north in search of water and 
pasturelands. They swept into the vast Ogaden (Ogaadeen) plains, 
reaching the southern shore of the Red Sea by the first century 
A.D. German scholar Bernd Heine, who wrote in the 1970s on 
early Somali history, observed that the Samaal had occupied the 
entire Horn of Africa by approximately 100 A.D. 

Coastal Towns 

The expansion into the peninsula as far as the Red Sea and In- 
dian Ocean put the Somalis in sustained contact with Persian and 
Arab immigrants who had established a series of settlements along 
the coast. From the eighth to the tenth centuries, Persian and Arab 
traders were already engaged in lucrative commerce from enclaves 
along the Red Sea and Indian Ocean as far south as the coast of 
present-day Kenya. The most significant enclave was the renowned 
medieval emporium of Saylac on the Gulf of Aden. In the sixteenth 
century, Saylac became the principal outlet for trade in coffee, gold, 
ostrich feathers, civet, and Ethiopian slaves bound for the Middle 
East, China, and India. Over time Saylac emerged as the center 
of Muslim culture and learning, famed for its schools and mosques. 
Eventually it became the capital of the medieval state of Adal, which 
in the sixteenth century fought off Christian Ethiopian domina- 
tion of the highlands. Between 1560 and 1660, Ethiopian expedi- 
tions repeatedly harried Saylac, which sank into decay. Berbera 
replaced Saylac as the northern hub of Islamic influence in the Horn 
of Africa. By the middle of the sixteenth century, Saylac and Ber- 
bera had become dependencies of the sharifs of Mukha and in the 
seventeenth century passed to the Ottoman Turks, who exercised 
authority over them through locally recruited Somali governors. 

The history of commercial and intellectual contact between the 
inhabitants of the Arabian and Somali coasts may help explain the 
Somalis' connection with the Prophet Muhammad. Early in the 
Prophet's ministry, a band of persecuted Muslims had, with the 
Prophet's encouragement, fled across the Red Sea into the Horn of 
Africa. There the Muslims were afforded protection by the Ethiopian 


Somalia: A Country Study 

negus, or king. Thus, Islam may have been introduced into the 
Horn of Africa well before the faith took root in its Arabian native 
soil. The large-scale conversion of the Somalis had to await the 
arrival in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries of Mus- 
lim patriarchs, in particular, the renowned Shaykh Daarood Jabarti 
and Shaykh Isahaaq, or Isaaq. Daarood married Doombira Dir, 
the daughter of a local patriarch. Their issue gave rise to the con- 
federacy that forms the largest clan-family (see Glossary) in Somalia, 
the Daarood. For his part, Shaykh Isaaq founded the numerous 
Isaaq clan-family in northern Somalia. Along with the clan (see 
Glossary) system of lineages (see Glossary), the Arabian shaykhs 
probably introduced into Somalia the patriarchal ethos and 
patrilineal genealogy typical of Semitic societies, and gradually 
replaced the indigenous Somali social organization, which, like that 
of many other African societies, may have been matrilineal (see 
The Segmentary Social Order, ch. 2). 

Islam's penetration of the Somali coast, along with the immigra- 
tion of Arabian elements, inspired a second great population move- 
ment reversing the flow of migration from northward to southward. 
This massive movement, which ultimately took the Somalis to the 
banks of the Tana River and to the fertile plains of Harer in Ethio- 
pia, commenced in the thirteenth century and continued to the 
nineteenth century. At that point, European interlopers appeared 
on the East African scene, ending Somali migration onto the East 
African plateau. 

Emergence of Adal 

In addition to southward migration, a second factor in Somali 
history from the fifteenth century onward was the emergence of 
centralized state systems. The most important of these in medieval 
times was Adal, whose influence at the height of its power and 
prosperity in the sixteenth century extended from Saylac, the cap- 
ital, through the fertile valleys of the Jijiga and the Harer plateau 
to the Ethiopian highlands. Adal's fame derived not only from the 
prosperity and cosmopolitanism of its people, its architectural 
sophistication, graceful mosques, and high learning, but also from 
its conflicts with the expansionist Ethiopians. For hundreds of years 
before the fifteenth century, goodwill had existed between the 
dominant new civilization of Islam and the Christian neguses of 
Ethiopia. One tradition holds that Muhammad blessed Ethiopia 
and enjoined his disciples from ever conducting jihad (holy war) 
against the Christian kingdom in gratitude for the protection ear- 
ly Muslims had received from the Ethiopian negus. Whereas Mus- 
lim armies rapidly overran the more powerful Persian empire and 


Shaykh Abdulaziz Mosque, ninth century, Mogadishu 

Courtesy R.W.S. Hudson 


Somalia: A Country Study 

much of Byzantium soon after the birth of Islam, there was no ji- 
had against Christian Ethiopia for centuries. The forbidding Ethio- 
pian terrain of deep gorges, sharp escarpments, and perpendicular 
massifs that rise more than 4,500 meters also discouraged the Mus- 
lims from attempting a campaign of conquest against so inaccessi- 
ble a kingdom. 

Muslim-Christian relations soured during the reign of the ag- 
gressive Negus Yeshaq (ruled 1414-29). Forces of his rapidly ex- 
panding empire descended from the highlands to despoil Muslim 
settlements in the valley east of the ancient city of Harer. Having 
branded the Muslims "enemies of the Lord," Yeshaq invaded the 
Muslim kingdom of Ifat in 1415. He crushed the armies of Ifat 
and put to flight in the wastes along the Gulf of Tadjoura (in present- 
day Djibouti) Ifat's king Saad ad Din. Yeshaq followed Saad ad 
Din to the island off the coast of Saylac (which still bears his name), 
where the Muslim king was killed. Yeshaq compelled the Mus- 
lims to offer tribute, and also ordered his singers to compose a gloat- 
ing hymn of thanksgiving for his victory. In the hymn's lyrics, the 
word Somali appears for the first time in written record. 

By the sixteenth century, the Muslims had recovered sufficient- 
ly to break through from the east into the central Ethiopian high- 
lands. Led by the charismatic Imam Ahmad Guray (1506-43), the 
Muslims poured into Ethiopia, using scorched-earth tactics that 
decimated the population of the country. A Portuguese expedition 
led by Pedro da Gama, a son of Vasco da Gama who was looking 
for the Prester John of medieval European folklore — a Christian, 
African monarch of vast dominions — arrived from the sea and saved 
Ethiopia. The joint Portuguese-Ethiopian force used cannon to rout 
the Muslims, whose imam died on the battlefield. 

Mogadishu and Its Banaadir Hinterlands 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the southern city of 
Mogadishu became Somalia's most important city. Mogadishu, 
Merca, and Baraawe had been major Somali coastal towns in 
medieval times. Their origins are unknown, but by the fourteenth 
century travelers were mentioning the three towns more and more 
as important centers of urban ease and learning. Mogadishu, the 
largest and most prosperous, dates back at least to the ninth cen- 
tury, when Persian and Arabian immigrants intermingled with 
Somali elements to produce a distinctive hybrid culture. The mean- 
ing of Mogadishu's name is uncertain. Some render it as a Somali 
version of the Arabic "maqad shah," or "imperial seat of the 
shah," thus hinting at a Persian role in the city's founding. Others 
consider it a Somali mispronunciation of the Swahili "mwyu wa" 


Historical Setting 

(last northern city), raising the possibility of its being the north- 
ernmost of the chain of Swahili city-states on the East African coast. 
Whatever its origin, Mogadishu was at the zenith of its prosperity 
when the well-known Arab traveler Ibn Batuta appeared on the 
Somali coast in 1331. Ibn Batuta describes "Maqdashu" as "an 
exceedingly large city" with merchants who exported to Egypt and 
elsewhere the excellent cloth made in the city. 

Through commerce, proselytization, and political influence, 
Mogadishu and other coastal commercial towns influenced the 
Banaadir hinterlands (the rural areas outlying Mogadishu) in the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Evidence of that influence was 
the increasing Islamization of the interior by sufis (Muslim mys- 
tics) who emigrated upcountry, where they settled among the 
nomads, married local women, and brought Islam to temper the 
random violence of the inhabitants. 

By the end of the sixteenth century, the locus of intercommuni- 
cation shifted upland to the well-watered region between the 
Shabeelle and Jubba rivers. Evidence of the shift of initiative from 
the coast to the interior may be found in the rise between 1550 
and 1650 of the Ujuuraan (also seen as Ajuuraan) state, which 
prospered on the lower reaches of the interriverine region under 
the clan of the Gareen. The considerable power of the Ujuuraan 
state was not diminished until the Portuguese penetration of the 
East African coast in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 
Among Somali towns and cities, only Mogadishu successfully resist- 
ed the repeated depredations of the Portuguese. 

The Somali Peninsula on the Eve of Imperial Partition 

In 1728 the last Portuguese foothold on the East African coast 
was dislodged from the great Mombasa castie of Fort Jesus. From 
then until the European "scramble" for African colonies in the 
1880s, the Omanis exercised a shadowy authority over the Banaadir 
coast. Omani rule over the Somalis consisted for the most part of 
a token annual tribute payment and the presence of a resident qadi 
(Muslim judge) and a handful of askaris (territorial police). 

Whereas the Banaadir coast was steadily drawn into the orbit 
of Zanzibari rulers, the northern coast, starting in the middle of 
the eighteenth century, passed under the sharifs of Mukha, who 
held their feeble authority on behalf of the declining Ottomans. 
The Mukha sharifs, much like the sultans of Zanzibar, satisfied 
themselves with a token yearly tribute collected for them by a na- 
tive governor. In 1854-55 when Lieutenant Richard Burton of the 
British India navy frequented the northern Somali coast, he found 
a Somali governor, Haaji Shermaarke Ali Saalih of the Habar 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Yoonis clan of the Isaaq clan-family, exercising real power over 
Saylac and adjacent regions. By the time of Burton's arrival, once- 
mighty Saylac had only a tenuous influence over its environs. The 
city itself had degenerated into a rubble of mud and wattle huts, 
its water storage no longer working, its once-formidable walls 
decayed beyond recognition, and its citizenry insulted and oppressed 
at will by tribesmen who periodically infested the city. 

The Majeerteen Sultanates 

Farther east on the Majeerteen (Bari) coast, by the middle of 
the nineteenth century two tiny kingdoms emerged that would play 
a significant political role on the Somali Peninsula prior to coloni- 
zation. These were the Majeerteen Sultanate of Boqor Ismaan Ma- 
hamuud, and that of his kinsman Sultan Yuusuf Ali Keenadiid 
of Hobyo (Obbia). The Majeerteen Sultanate originated in the mid- 
eighteenth century, but only came into its own in the nineteenth 
century with the reign of the resourceful Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud. 
Ismaan Mahamuud' s kingdom benefited from British subsidies (for 
protecting the British naval crews that were shipwrecked periodi- 
cally on the Somali coast) and from a liberal trade policy that facili- 
tated a flourishing commerce in livestock, ostrich feathers, and gum 
arabic. While acknowledging a vague vassalage to the British, the 
sultan kept his desert kingdom free until well after 1800. 

Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud' s sultanate was nearly destroyed in 
the middle of the nineteenth century by a power struggle between 
him and his young, ambitious cousin, Keenadiid. Nearly five years 
of destructive civil war passed before Boqor Ismaan Mahamuud 
managed to stave off the challenge of the young upstart, who was 
finally driven into exile in Arabia. A decade later, in the 1870s, 
Keenadiid returned from Arabia with a score of Hadhrami 
musketeers and a band of devoted lieutenants. With their help, 
he carved out the small kingdom of Hobyo after conquering the 
local Hawiye clans. Both kingdoms, however, were gradually ab- 
sorbed by the extension into southern Somalia of Italian colonial 
rule in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. 

Imperial Partition 

The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw political develop- 
ments that transformed the Somali Peninsula. During this period, 
the Somalis became the subjects of state systems under the flags 
of Britain, France, Italy, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The new rulers had 
various motives for colonization. Britain sought to gain control of 
the northern Somali coast as a source of mutton and other livestock 
products for its naval port of Aden in present-day Yemen. As a 


Historical Setting 

result of the growing importance of the Red Sea to British opera- 
tions in the East, Aden was regarded as indispensable to the defense 
of British India. British occupation of the northern Somali coast 
began in earnest in February 1884, when Major A. Hunter ar- 
rived at Berbera to negotiate treaties of friendship and protection 
with numerous Somali clans. Hunter arranged to have British vice 
consuls installed in Berbera, Bullaxaar, and Saylac. 

The French, having been evicted from Egypt by the British, 
wished to establish a coaling station on the Red Sea coast to strength- 
en naval links with their Indochina colonies. The French were also 
eager to bisect Britain's vaunted Cairo to Cape Town zone of in- 
fluence with an east to west expansion across Africa. France ex- 
tended its foothold on the Afar coast partly to counter the high duties 
that the British authorities imposed on French goods in Obock. 
A French protectorate was proclaimed under the governorship of 
Leonce Lagarde, who played a prominent role in extending French 
influence into the Horn of Africa. 

Recentiy unified, Italy was inexperienced at imperial power plays. 
It was therefore content to stake out a territory whenever it could 
do so without confronting another colonial power. In southern 
Somalia, better known as the Banaadir coast, Italy was the main 
colonizer, but the extension of Italian influence was painstakingly 
slow owing to parliamentary lack of enthusiasm for overseas terri- 
tory. Italy acquired its first possession in southern Somalia in 1888 
when the Sultan of Hobyo, Keenadiid, agreed to Italian "protec- 
tion." In the same year, Vincenzo Filonardi, Italy's architect of 
imperialism in southern Somalia, demanded a similar arrangement 
from the Majeerteen Sultanate of Ismaan Mahamuud. In 1889 both 
sultans, suspicious of each other, consented to place their lands un- 
der Italian protection. Italy then notified the signatory powers of 
the Berlin West Africa Conference of 1884-85 of its southeastern 
Somali protectorate (see fig. 2). Later, Italy seized the Banaadir 
coast proper, which had long been under the tenuous authority 
of the Zanzibaris, to form the colony of Italian Somaliland. 
Chisimayu Region, which passed to the British as a result of their 
protectorate over the Zanzibaris, was ceded to Italy in 1925 to com- 
plete Italian tenure over southern Somalia. 

The catalyst for imperial tenure over Somali territory was Egypt 
under its ambitious ruler, Khedive Ismail. In the last quarter of 
the nineteenth century, this Ottoman vassal sought to carve out 
for Egypt a swath of territory in the Horn of Africa. However, the 
Sudanese anti-Egyptian Mahdist revolt that broke out in 1884 
shattered the khedive's plan for imperial aggrandizement. The 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Figure 2. Colonial Boundaries, 1891-1960 

Egyptians needed British help to evacuate their troops marooned 
in Sudan and on the Somali coast. 

What the European colonialists failed to foresee was that the big- 
gest threat to their imperial ambitions in the Horn of Africa would 
come from an emerging regional power, the Ethiopia of Emperor 
Menelik II. Emperor Menelik II not only managed to defend Ethio- 
pia against European encroachment, but also succeeded in com- 
peting with the Europeans for the Somali-inhabited territories that 
he claimed as part of Ethiopia. Between 1887 and 1897, Menelik 
II successfully extended Ethiopian rule over the long independent 


Historical Setting 

Muslim Emirate of Harer and over western Somalia (better known 
as the Ogaden). Thus, by the turn of the century, the Somali Penin- 
sula, one of the most culturally homogeneous regions of Africa, 
was divided into British Somaliland, French Somaliland, Italian 
Somaliland, Ethiopian Somaliland (the Ogaden), and what came 
to be called the Northern Frontier District (NFD) of Kenya. 

Although the officials of the three European powers often lacked 
funds, they nevertheless managed to establish the rudimentary or- 
gans of colonial administration. Moreover, because they controlled 
the port outlets, they could levy taxes on livestock to obtain the 
necessary funds to administer their respective Somali territories. 
In contrast, Ethiopia was largely a feudal state with a subsistence 
economy that required its army of occupation to live off the land. 
Thus, Ethiopian armies repeatedly despoiled the Ogaden in the 
last two decades of the nineteenth century. 

Mahammad Abdille Hasan's Dervish Resistance to Colonial 

Given the frequency and virulence of the Ethiopian raids, it was 
natural that the first pan-Somali or Greater Somalia effort against 
colonial occupation, and for unification of all areas populated by 
Somalis into one country, should have been directed at Ethiopi- 
ans rather than at the Europeans; the effort was spearheaded by 
the Somali dervish resistance movement. The dervishes followed 
Mahammad Abdille Hasan of the puritanical Salihiyah tariqa (re- 
ligious order or brotherhood). His ability as an orator and a poet 
(much- valued skills in Somali society) won him many disciples, es- 
pecially among his own Dulbahante and Ogaden clans (both of the 
Daarood clan-family). The British dismissed Hasan as a religious 
fanatic, calling him the "Mad Mullah." They underestimated his 
following, however, because from 1899 to 1920, the dervishes con- 
ducted a war of resistance against the Ethiopians and British, a 
struggle that devastated the Somali Peninsula and resulted in the 
death of an estimated one-third of northern Somalia's population 
and the near destruction of its economy. One of the longest and 
bloodiest conflicts in the annals of sub-Saharan resistance to alien 
encroachment, the dervish uprising was not quelled until 1920 with 
the death of Hasan, who became a hero of Somali nationalism. 
Deploying a Royal Air Force squadron recently returned from ac- 
tion in combat in World War I, the British delivered the decisive 
blow with a devastating aerial bombardment of the dervish capital 
at Taleex in northern Somalia. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Consolidation of Colonial Rule 

The two decades between 1900 and 1920 were a period of colonial 
consolidation. However, of the colonial powers that had divided 
the Somalis, only Italy developed a comprehensive administrative 
plan for its colony. The Italians intended to plant a colony of set- 
tlers and commercial entrepreneurs in the region between the 
Shabeelle and Jubba rivers in southern Somalia. The motivation 
was threefold: to " relieve population pressure at home," to offer 
the "civilizing Roman mission" to the Somalis, and to increase 
Italian prestige through overseas colonization. Initiated by Governor 
Carletti (1906-10), Italy's colonial program received further impetus 
by the introduction of fascist ideology and economic planning in 
the 1920s, particularly during the administration of Governor 
Cesare Maria dei Vecchi di Val Cismon. Large-scale development 
projects were launched, including a system of plantations on which 
fruits, primarily bananas, and sugarcane were grown. Sugarcane 
fields in Giohar and numerous banana plantations around the town 
of Jannaale on the Shabeelle River, and at the southern mouth of 
the Jubba River near Chisimayu, helped transform southern Soma- 
lia's economy. 

In contrast to the Italian colony, British Somaliland stayed a 
neglected backwater. Daunted by the diversion of substantial de- 
velopment funds to the suppression of the dervish insurrection and 
by the "wild" character of the anarchic Somali pastoralists, Brit- 
ain used its colony as little more than a supplier of meat products 
to Aden. This policy had a tragic effect on the future unity and 
stability of independent Somalia. When the two former colonies 
merged to form the Somali Republic in 1960, the north lagged far 
behind the south in economic infrastructure and skilled labor. As 
a result, southerners gradually came to dominate the new state's 
economic and political life — a hegemony that bred a sense of betray- 
al and bitterness among northerners. 

Somalia During World War II 

Italy's 1935 attack on Ethiopia led to a temporary Somali re- 
unification. After Italian premier Benito Mussolini's armies 
marched into Ethiopia and toppled Emperor Haile Selassie, the 
Italians seized British Somaliland. During their occupation 
(1940-41), the Italians reamalgamated the Ogaden with southern 
and northern Somalilands, uniting for the first time in forty years 
all the Somali clans that had been arbitrarily separated by the Anglo- 
Italo-Ethiopian boundaries. The elimination of these artificial 
boundaries and the unification of the Somali Peninsula enabled 


Italian triumphal arch, Mogadishu 
Courtesy R.W.S. Hudson 

the Italians to set prices and impose taxes and to issue a com- 
mon currency for the entire area. These actions helped move the 
Somali economy from traditional exchange in kind to a monetized 

Thousands of Italians, either veterans of the Ethiopian conquest 
or new emigrants, poured into Somalia, especially into the inter- 
riverine region. Although colonization was designed to entrench 
the European conquerors, many Somalis did not fare badly under 
Italian rule during this period. Some, such as the Haaji Diiriye 
and Yuusuf Igaal families, accumulated considerable fortunes. One 
indicator of the Somali sense of relative well-being may have been 
the absence of any major anti-Italian revolt during Italy's occupation. 

At the onset of World War II, Italian holdings in East Africa 
included southern Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Italy subsequent- 
ly invaded northern Somalia and ejected the British from the Horn 
of Africa. The Italian victory turned out to be short-lived, however. 
In March 1941 , the British counterattacked and reoccupied northern 
Somalia, from which they launched their lightning campaign to 
retake the whole region from Italy and restore Emperor Haile Selas- 
sie to his throne. The British then placed southern Somalia and 
the Ogaden under a military administration. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

British Military Administration 

Following Italy's defeat, the British established military adminis- 
trations in what had been British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, 
and Ethiopian Somaliland. Thus, all Somali-inhabited territories — 
with the exception of French Somaliland and Kenya's Northern 
Frontier District (NFD) — were for the second time brought under 
a single tenure. No integrated administrative structure for the Soma- 
li areas was established, however, and under intense pressure from 
Haile Selassie, Britain agreed to return the Ogaden to Ethiopian 
jurisdiction. A military governor, aided by a handful of military 
officers, took over the work of the colonial civil service. In what 
had been Italian Somaliland, a similar military administration, 
headed by a military commander, was established. 

The principal concern of the British administration during World 
War II and subsequently was to reestablish order. Accordingly, 
the Somaliland Camel Corps (local levies raised during the der- 
vish disturbances) was reorganized and later disbanded. This ef- 
fort resulted in the creation of five battalions known as the 
Somaliland Scouts (ilalos), which absorbed former irregular units 
(see The Warrior Tradition and Development of a Modern Army, 
ch. 5). The British disbanded the Italian security units in the south 
and raised a new army, the Somalia Gendarmerie, commanded 
by British officers, to police the occupied territory. 

Originally, many of the rank and file of the gendarmerie were 
askaris from Kenya and Uganda who had served under British 
officers. The gendarmerie was gradually transformed into an in- 
digenous force through the infusion of local recruits who were 
trained in a new police academy created by the British military 
administration. Somalia was full of Italian military stragglers, so 
the security services of the northern and southern protectorates col- 
laborated in rounding them up. The greater security challenge for 
the British during World War II and immediately after was to dis- 
arm the Somalis who had taken advantage of the windfall in arms 
brought about by the war. Also, Ethiopia had organized Somali 
bandits to infest the British side so as to discourage continued British 
occupation of the Ogaden. Ethiopia also armed clan militias and 
encouraged them to cross into the British zone and cause bloodshed. 

Despite its distracting security problems, the British military 
forces that administered the two Somali protectorates from 1941 
to 1949 effected greater social and political changes than had their 
predecessors. Britain's wartime requirement that the protectorate 
be self-supporting was modified after 1945, and the appropriation 
of new funds for the north created a burst of development. To signal 


Historical Setting 

the start of a new policy of increased attention to control of the 
interior, the capital was transferred from Berbera, a hot coastal 
town, to Hargeysa, whose location on the inland plateau offered 
the incidental benefit of a more hospitable climate. Although the 
civil service remained inadequate to staff the expanding adminis- 
tration, efforts were made to establish health and veterinary ser- 
vices, to improve agriculture in the Gabiley-Boorama agricultural 
corridor northwest of Hargeysa, to increase the water supply to 
pastoralists by digging more bore wells, and to introduce secular 
elementary schools where previously only Quranic schools had ex- 
isted. The judiciary was reorganized as a dual court system com- 
bining elements from the Somali heer (traditional jurisprudence), 
Islamic sharia or religious law, and British common law. 

In Italian Somaliland, the British improved working conditions 
for Somali agricultural laborers, doubled the size of the elemen- 
tary school system, and allowed Somalis to staff the lower stratum 
of the civil service and gendarmerie. Additionally, military adminis- 
trators opened the political process for Somalis, replacing Italian- 
appointed chiefs with clan-elected bodies, as well as district and 
regional councils whose purpose was to advise the military adminis- 

Military officials could not govern without the Italian civilians 
who constituted the experienced civil service. The British military 
also recognized that Italian technocrats would be needed to keep 
the economy going. Only Italians deemed to be security risks were 
interned or excluded from the new system. In early 1943, Italians 
were permitted to organize political associations. A host of Italian 
organizations of varying ideologies sprang up to challenge British 
rule, to compete politically with Somalis and Arabs (the latter be- 
ing politically significant only in the urban areas, particularly the 
towns of Mogadishu, Merca, and Baraawe), and to agitate, some- 
times violently, for the return of the colony to Italian rule. Faced 
with growing Italian political pressure, inimical to continued Brit- 
ish tenure and to Somali aspirations for independence, the Soma- 
lis and the British came to see each other as allies. The situation 
prompted British colonial officials to encourage the Somalis to or- 
ganize politically; the result was the first modern Somali political 
party, the Somali Youth Club (SYC), established in Mogadishu 
in 1943. 

To empower the new party, the British allowed the better edu- 
cated police and civil servants to join it, thus relaxing Britain's tradi- 
tional policy of separating the civil service from leadership, if not 
membership, in political parties. The SYC expanded rapidly and 
boasted 25,000 card-carrying members by 1946. In 1947 it renamed 


Somalia: A Country Study 

itself the Somali Youth League (SYL) and began to open offices 
not only in the two British-run Somalilands but also in Ethiopia's 
Ogaden and in the NFD of Kenya. The SYL's stated objectives 
were to unify all Somali territories, including the NFD and the 
Ogaden; to create opportunities for universal modern education; 
to develop the Somali language by a standard national orthogra- 
phy; to safeguard Somali interests; and to oppose the restoration 
of Italian rule. SYL policy banned clannishness so that the thir- 
teen founding members, although representing four of Somalia's 
six major clans, refused to disclose their ethnic identities. A sec- 
ond political body sprang up, originally calling itself the Patriotic 
Benefit Union but later renaming itself the Hisbia Digil Mirifle 
(HDM), representing the two interriverine clans of Digil and Miri- 
fle. The HDM allegedly cooperated with the Italians and accept- 
ed significant Italian financial backing in its struggle against the 
SYL. Although the SYL enjoyed considerable popular support from 
northerners, the principal parties in British Somaliland were the 
Somali National League (SNL), mainly associated with the Isaaq 
clan-family, and the United Somali Party (USP), which had the 
support of the Dir (Gadabursi and Iise) and Daarood (Dulbahante 
and Warsangali) clan-families. 

Although southern Somalia legally was an Italian colony, in 1945 
the Potsdam Conference decided not to return to Italy the African 
territory it had seized during the war. The disposition of Somalia 
therefore fell to the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, which as- 
signed a four-power commission consisting of Britain, France, the 
Soviet Union, and the United States to decide Somalia's future. 
The British suggested that all the Somalis should be placed under 
a single administration, preferably British, but the other powers 
accused Britain of imperial machinations. 

In January 1948, commission representatives arrived in 
Mogadishu to learn the aspirations of the Somalis. The SYL re- 
quested and obtained permission from the military administration 
to organize a massive demonstration to show the commission 
delegates the strength of popular demand for independence. When 
the SYL held its rally, a counter demonstration led by Italian ele- 
ments came out to voice pro-Italian sentiment and to attempt to 
discredit the SYL before the commission. A riot erupted in which 
fifty-one Italians and twenty-four Somalis were killed. Despite the 
confusion, the commission proceeded with its hearings and seemed 
favorably impressed by the proposal the SYL presented: to reunite 
all Somalis and to place Somalia under a ten-year trusteeship over- 
seen by an international body that would lead the country to in- 
dependence. The commission heard two other plans. One was 


Historical Setting 

offered by the HDM, which departed from its, pro-Italian stance 
to present an agenda similar to that of the SYL, but which includ- 
ed a request that the trusteeship period last thirty years. The other 
was put forward by a combination of Italian and Somali groups 
petitioning for the return of Italian rule. 

The commission recommended a plan similar to that of the SYL, 
but the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, under the influence 
of conflicting diplomatic interests, failed to reach consensus on the 
way to guide the country to independence. France favored the colo- 
ny's return to Italy; Britain favored a formula much like that of 
the SYL, but the British plan was thwarted by the United States 
and the Soviet Union, which accused Britain of seeking imperial 
gains at the expense of Ethiopian and Italian interests. Britain was 
unwilling to quarrel with its erstwhile allies over Somali well-being 
and the SYL plan was withdrawn. Meanwhile, Ethiopia strongly 
pressured Britain through the United States, which was anxious 
to accommodate Emperor Haile Selassie in return for his promise 
to offer the United States a military base in Ethiopia. For its part, 
the Soviet Union preferred to reinstate Italian tenure, mainly be- 
cause of the growing communist influence on Italian domestic po- 

Under United States and Soviet prodding, Britain returned the 
Ogaden to Ethiopia in 1948 over massive Somali protests. The ac- 
tion shattered Somali nationalist aspirations for Greater Somalia, 
but the shock was softened by the payment of considerable war 
reparations — or "bribes," as the Somalis characterized them — to 
Ogaden clan chiefs. In 1949 many grazing areas in the hinterlands 
also were returned to Ethiopia, but Britain gained Ethiopian per- 
mission to station British liaison officers in the Reserved Areas, 
areas frequented by British-protected Somali clans. The liaison 
officers moved about with the British-protected clans that frequented 
the Haud pasturelands for six months of the year. The liaison 
officers protected the pastoralists from Ethiopian "tax collectors" — 
armed bands that Ethiopia frequently sent to the Ogaden, both 
to demonstrate its sovereignty and to defray administrative costs 
by seizing Somali livestock. 

Meanwhile, because of disagreements among commission mem- 
bers over the disposition of Somalia, the Allied Council of Foreign 
Ministers referred the matter to the United Nations (UN) Gener- 
al Assembly. In November 1949, the General Assembly voted to 
make southern Somalia a trust territory to be placed under Italian 
control for ten years, following which it would become indepen- 
dent. The General Assembly stipulated that under no circumstance 
should Italian rule over the colony extend beyond 1960. The General 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Assembly seems to have been persuaded by the argument that Italy, 
because of its experience and economic interests, was best suited 
to administer southern Somalia. Thus, the SYL's vehement opposi- 
tion to the reimposition of Italian rule fell on deaf ears at the UN. 

Trusteeship and Protectorate: The Road to Independence 

The conditional return of Italian administration to southern 
Somalia gave the new trust territory several unique advantages com- 
pared with other African colonies. To the extent that Italy held 
the territory by UN mandate, the trusteeship provisions gave the 
Somalis the opportunity to gain experience in political education 
and self-government. These were advantages that British Somali- 
land, which was to be incorporated into the new Somali state, did 
not have. Although in the 1950s British colonial officials attempted, 
through various development efforts, to make up for past neglect, 
the protectorate stagnated. The disparity between the two territo- 
ries in economic development and political experience would cause 
serious difficulties when it came time to integrate the two parts. 

The UN agreement established the Italian Trusteeship Adminis- 
tration (Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana della Somalia — AFIS) 
to prepare southern Somalia for independence over a ten-year period. 
Under the agreement, a UN Advisory Council based in Mogadishu 
observed the AFIS and reported its progress to the UN Trustee- 
ship Council. The agreement required the new administration to 
develop the colony's political institutions, to expand the educational 
system, to improve the economic infrastructure, and to give the 
indigenous people freedom of the press and the right to dissent. 
These political and civil guarantees did not make for smooth Italo- 
Somali relations. Seen by the Italians as the source of nationalist 
sentiment and activity, the SYL distrusted the new administration, 
suspecting it of having a hidden colonial agenda. SYL fears were 
exacerbated when the AFIS, soon after taking control, proceeded 
to jail some SYL members and to fire others from their civil ser- 
vice posts. The SYL responded with protests, civil disobedience, 
and representations to the UN Advisory Council. The council in- 
tervened to arbitrate the disputes and to encourage the two sides 
to collaborate. The conflict simmered for three years (1950-53) until 
new economic and political initiatives provided a channel for the 
energies of Somali nationalists. 

The centerpiece of the initiatives was a series of seven-year de- 
velopment programs introduced in 1954. Drawing on development 
blueprints provided by the United States Agency for Internation- 
al Cooperation (AIC; later the United States Agency for Interna- 
tional Development — AID) and the United Nations Development 


Historical Setting 

Programme, the Italian administration initiated plans to stimulate 
local agriculture, to improve the infrastructure, and to expand 
educational facilities. Exports, responding to these stimuli, trebled 
from 1954 to 1960. Despite these improvements, an acute balance 
of payments deficit persisted, and the administration had to rely 
on foreign grants and Italian subsidies to balance the budget. 

Development efforts in education were more successful. Between 
1952 and 1957, student enrollment at the elementary and second- 
ary levels doubled. In 1957 there were 2,000 students receiving 
secondary, technical, and university education in Italian Somaliland 
and through scholarship programs in China, Egypt, and Italy. 
Another program offered night-school adult literacy instruction and 
provided further training to civil servants. However, these pro- 
grams were severely handicapped by the absence of a standard script 
and a written national language. Arabic, Italian, and English served 
as media of instruction in the various schools; this linguistic plurality 
created a tower of Babel. 

Progress was made throughout the 1950s in fostering political 
institutions. In accordance with a UN resolution, in 1950 the 
Italians had established in Italian Somaliland an advisory body 
known as the Territorial Council, which took an active part in dis- 
cussions of proposed AFIS legislation. Composed of thirty-five 
members, the council came to be dominated by representatives of 
political parties such as the SYL and HDM. Acting as a nascent 
parliament, the Territorial Council gained experience not only in 
procedural matters but also in legislative debates on the political, 
economic, and social problems that would face future Somali 
governments. For its part, the AFIS, by working closely with the 
council, won legitimacy in Somali eyes. 

There were other forums, besides the Territorial Council, in 
which Somalis gained executive and legislative experience. These 
included the forty-eight-member Municipal Council introduced in 
1950, whose members dealt with urban planning, public services, 
and, after 1956, fiscal and budgetary matters. Rural councils han- 
dled tribal and local problems such as conflicts over grazing grounds 
and access to water and pasturelands. However, the effectiveness 
of the rural councils was undermined by the wanderings of the 
nomads as they searched for water wells and pastures, a circum- 
stance that made stable political organizations difficult to sustain. 
Thus, the UN Advisory Council's plans to use the rural councils 
as bridges to development turned out to be untenable, a situation 
that enabled AFIS-appointed district commissioners to become the 
focus of power and political action. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Territory-wide elections were first held in southern Somalia in 
1956. Although ten parties fielded candidates to select representa- 
tives to a new seventy- seat Legislative Assembly that replaced the 
Territorial Council, only the SYL (which won forty- three seats) 
and HDM (which won thirteen seats) gained significant percen- 
tages of the sixty seats that the Somalis contested. The remaining 
ten seats were reserved for Indians, Arabs, and other non-Somalis. 
Abdullaahi Iise, leader of the SYL in the assembly, became the 
first prime minister of a government composed of five ministerial 
posts, all held by Somalis. The new assembly assumed responsi- 
bility for domestic affairs, although the governor as representative 
of the Italian government and as the most senior official of the AFIS 
retained the "power of absolute veto" as well as the authority to 
rule by emergency decree should the need arise. Moreover, until 
1958 the AFIS continued to control important areas such as for- 
eign relations, external finance, defense, and public order. 

The term of office of the Iise government was four years 
(1956-60) — a trial period that enabled the nascent southern Somali 
administration to shape the terms under which it was to gain its 
independence. This period was the most stable in modern Somali 
politics. The government's outlook was modernist and, once the 
Somalis become convinced that Italy would not attempt to post- 
pone independence, pro-Italian. The franchise was extended to 
women in 1958, and nationalization at all levels of administration 
from district commissioner to provincial governor proceeded apace. 
Attempts were made to suppress clannishness and to raise the sta- 
tus of women and of groups holding lowly occupations. The fu- 
ture promised hope: the moral support of global anticolonial forces, 
the active backing of the UN, and the goodwill of the Western pow- 
ers, including Italy. 

The southern Somali government's principal tasks were to in- 
crease economic self-sufficiency and to find external sources of finan- 
cial assistance that would replace the support Italy would withdraw 
after independence. Another major concern was to frame the con- 
stitution that would take effect once Somalia became independent. 
The writers of this document faced two sensitive issues: the form 
of government — federalist or unitary — the new nation would adopt, 
and nationalist aspirations concerning Greater Somalia. The first 
issue was of great interest to the HDM, whose supporters mainly 
were cultivators from the well-watered region between the Shabeelle 
and Jubba rivers and who represented about 20 percent of the popu- 
lation. The HDM wanted a federal form of government. This 
preference derived from concerns about dominance by the SYL, 
which was supported by pastoral clans that accounted for 75 percent 


Historical Setting 

of the population (see Samaal, ch. 2). Not surprisingly, the SYL 
advocated a unitary form of government, arguing that federalism 
would encourage clannishness and social strife. In the end, politi- 
cal and numerical strength enabled the SYL to prevail. 

The delicate issue of Greater Somalia, whose re-creation would 
entail the detachment from Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya of 
Somali-inhabited areas, presented Somali leaders with a dilemma: 
they wanted peace with their neighbors, but making claims on their 
territory was certain to provoke hostility. Led by Haaji Maham- 
mad Husseen, the SYL radical wing wanted to include in the con- 
stitution an article calling for the unification of the Somali nation 
"by all means necessary." In the end, the moderate majority 
prevailed in modifying the wording to demand "reunification of 
the dismembered nation by peaceful means." 

During the four-year transition to independence, conflicts over 
unresolved economic and political issues took the form of intraparty 
squabbling within the dominant SYL rather than interparty com- 
petition, as Daarood and Hawiye party stalwarts banded into fac- 
tions. The Daarood accused Iise's government of being under 
Italian influence and the Hawiye countered with a charge of clan- 
nishness in the Daarood ranks. Husseen 's radical faction continued 
to charge Iise's government with being too close to the West, and 
to Italy in particular, and of doing little to realize the national goal 
of reconstituting Greater Somalia. Despite his rift with prime 
minister Iise, Husseen, who had headed the party in the early years, 
was again elected SYL president in July 1957. But his agenda of 
looser ties with the West and closer relations with the Arab world 
clashed with the policies of Iise and of Aadan Abdullah Usmaan, 
the parliamentary leader who would become the first president of 
independent Somalia. Husseen inveighed against "reactionaries 
in government," a thinly veiled reference to Iise and Usmaan. The 
latter two responded by expelling Husseen and his supporters from 
the SYL. Having lost the power struggle, Husseen created a mili- 
tant new party, the Greater Somali League (GSL). Although Hus- 
seen' s firebrand politics continued to worry the SYL leadership, 
he never managed to cut deeply into the party's constituency. 

The SYL won the 1958 municipal elections in the Italian trust 
territory, in part because it had begun to succeed in attracting im- 
portant Rahanwayn clan elements like Abdulqaadir Soppe, who 
formerly had supported the HDM. Its growing appeal put the SYL 
in a commanding position going into the pre-independence elec- 
tion campaigns for the National Assembly of the Republic, a new 
body that replaced the two legislative assemblies of British and 
Italian Somaliland. The National Assembly had been enlarged to 


Somalia: A Country Study 

contain ninety seats for southern representatives and thirty-three 
for northern representatives. The HDM and the GSL accused the 
SYL of tampering with the election process and decided to boy- 
cott the elections. Consequently, the SYL garnered sixty-one un- 
contested seats by default, in addition to the twenty seats contested 
and won by the party. The new government formed in 1959 was 
headed by incumbent prime minister Iise. The expanded SYL gave 
representation to virtually all the major clans in the south. Although 
efforts were made to distribute the fifteen cabinet posts among the 
contending clan-families, a political tug-of-war within the party con- 
tinued between conservatives from the religious communities and 
modernists such as Abdirashiid Ali Shermaarke. 

Meanwhile, in British Somaliland the civilian colonial adminis- 
tration attempted to expand educational opportunities in the pro- 
tectorate. The number of Somalis qualifying for administrative posts 
remained negligible, however. The protectorate had experienced 
little economic or infrastructural development apart from the dig- 
ging of more bore wells and the establishment of agricultural and 
veterinary services to benefit animal and plant husbandry. Com- 
prehensive geological surveys failed to uncover exploitable miner- 
al resources. 

Politically, although the SYL opened branches in the north and 
the SNL continued to expand its membership, neither party could 
mobilize grass-roots support. This changed in 1954, when the last 
British liaison officers withdrew from the Reserved Areas — parts 
of the Ogaden and the Haud in which the British were given tem- 
porary administrative rights, in accordance with a 1942 military 
convention between Britain and Ethiopian emperor-in-exile Haile 
Selassie. This move conformed with Britain's agreement with Ethio- 
pia confirming the latter' s title deeds to the Haud under the 1897 
treaty that granted Ethiopia full jurisdiction over the region. The 
British colonial administrators of the area were, however, embar- 
rassed by what they saw as Britain's betrayal of the trust put in 
it by Somali clans who were to be protected against Ethiopian raids. 

The Somalis responded with dismay to the ceding of the Haud 
to Ethiopia. A new party named the National United Front (NUF), 
supported by the SNL and the SYL, arose under the leadership 
of a Somali civil servant, Michael Mariano, a prominent veteran 
of the SYL's formative years. Remarkably, for the militantly Mus- 
lim country, the man selected to lead the nationalist struggle for 
the return of the Haud was a Christian. NUF representatives visited 
London and the UN seeking to have the Haud issue brought be- 
fore the world community, in particular the International Court 
of Justice. Britain attempted unsuccessfully to purchase the Haud 


Old port gate, Mogadishu 
Courtesy R. W. S. Hudson 

from Ethiopia. Ethiopia responded with a counterprotest laying 
claim to all Somali territories, including the British and Italian 
Somalilands, as part of historical Ethiopia — territories, Haile Selas- 
sie claimed, seized by the European powers during a period of Ethio- 
pian weakness. The Europeans were reluctant to press new 
territorial demands on Haile Selassie and did litde to help the Soma- 
lis recover the Haud. 

Political protests forced Britain in 1956 to introduce represen- 
tative government in its protectorate and to accept the eventual 
unification of British Somaliland with southern Somalia. Accord- 
ingly, in 1957 a Legislative Council was established, composed of 
six members appointed by the governor to represent the principal 
clan-families. The council was expanded the following year to consist 
of twelve elected members, two appointees, and fifteen senior elders 
and notables chosen as ex officio members. The electoral proce- 
dure in the north followed that in the south, with elections in ur- 
ban areas conducted by secret ballot and in the countryside by 
acclamation in clan assemblies. In 1960 the first elections contest- 
ed along party lines resulted in a victory for the SNL and its affili- 
ate, the USP, the two winning between them all but one of the 
thirty-three seats in the new Legislative Assembly. The remain- 
ing seat was won by Mariano, the NUF's defeat clearly attributable 

Somalia: A Country Study 

to his Christian affiliation, which his political opponents had made 
a prominent campaign issue. Following the election, Mahammad 
Ibrahim Igaal was chosen as prime minister to lead a four-man 

Popular demand compelled the leaders of the two territories to 
proceed with plans for immediate unification. The British govern- 
ment acquiesced to the force of Somali nationalist public opinion 
and agreed to terminate its rule of Somaliland in 1 960 in time for 
the protectorate to merge with the trust territory on the indepen- 
dence date already fixed by the UN commission. In April 1960, 
leaders of the two territories met in Mogadishu and agreed to form 
a unitary state. An elected president was to be head of state. Full 
executive powers would be held by a prime minister answerable 
to an elected National Assembly of 123 members representing the 
two territories. Accordingly, British Somaliland received its in- 
dependence on June 26, 1960, and united with the trust territory 
to establish the Somali Republic on July 1, 1960. The legislature 
appointed Usmaan president; he in turn appointed Shermaarke 
the first prime minister. Shermaarke formed a coalition govern- 
ment dominated by the SYL but supported by the two clan-based 
northern parties, the SNL and the USP. Usmaan' s appointment 
as president was ratified a year later in a national referendum. 

From Independence to Revolution 

During the nine-year period of parliamentary democracy that 
followed Somali independence, freedom of expression was widely 
regarded as being derived from the traditional right of every man 
to be heard. The national ideal professed by Somalis was one of 
political and legal equality in which historical Somali values and 
acquired Western practices appeared to coincide. Politics was 
viewed as a realm not limited to one profession, clan, or class, but 
open to all male members of society. The role of women, however, 
was more limited. Women had voted in Italian Somaliland since 
the municipal elections in 1958. In May 1963, by an assembly mar- 
gin of 52 to 42, suffrage was extended to women in former British 
Somaliland as well. Politics was at once the Somalis' most prac- 
ticed art and favorite sport. The most desired possession of most 
nomads was a radio, which was used to keep informed on political 
news. The level of political participation often surpassed that in 
many Western democracies. 

Problems of National Integration 

Although unified as a single nation at independence, the south 
and the north were, from an institutional perspective, two separate 


Historical Setting 

countries. Italy and Britain had left the two with separate adminis- 
trative, legal, and education systems in which affairs were conducted 
according to different procedures and in different languages. Police, 
taxes, and the exchange rates of their respective currencies also 
differed. Their educated elites had divergent interests, and eco- 
nomic contacts between the two regions were virtually nonexistent. 
In 1960 the UN created the Consultative Commission for Integra- 
tion, an international board headed by UN official Paolo Contini, 
to guide the gradual merger of the new country's legal systems and 
institutions and to reconcile the differences between them. (In 1964 
the Consultative Commission for Legislation succeeded this body. 
Composed of Somalis, it took up its predecessor's work under the 
chairmanship of Mariano.) But many southerners believed that, 
because of experience gained under the Italian trusteeship, theirs 
was the better prepared of the two regions for self-government. 
Northern political, administrative, and commercial elites were reluc- 
tant to recognize that they now had to deal with Mogadishu. 

At independence, the northern region had two functioning po- 
litical parties: the SNL, representing the Isaaq clan-family that con- 
stituted a numerical majority there; and the USP, supported largely 
by the Dir and the Daarood. In a unified Somalia, however, the 
Isaaq were a small minority, whereas the northern Daarood joined 
members of their clan- family from the south in the SYL. The Dir, 
having few kinsmen in the south, were pulled on the one hand by 
traditional ties to the Hawiye and on the other hand by common 
regional sympathies to the Isaaq. The southern opposition party, 
the GSL, pro-Arab and militantly pan-Somali, attracted the sup- 
port of the SNL and the USP against the SYL, which had adopted 
a moderate stand before independence. 

Northern misgivings about being too tightly harnessed to the 
south were demonstrated by the voting pattern in the June 1961 
referendum on the constitution, which was in effect Somalia's first 
national election. Although the draft was overwhelmingly approved 
in the south, it was supported by less than 50 percent of the north- 
ern electorate. 

Dissatisfaction at the distribution of power among the clan- 
families and between the two regions boiled over in December 1961 , 
when a group of British-trained junior army officers in the north 
rebelled in reaction to the posting of higher ranking southern officers 
(who had been trained by the Italians for police duties) to com- 
mand their units. The ringleaders urged a separation of north and 
south. Northern noncommissioned officers arrested the rebels, but 
discontent in the north persisted. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

In early 1962, GSL leader Husseen, seeking in part to exploit 
northern dissatisfaction, attempted to form an amalgamated party, 
known as the Somali Democratic Union (SDU). It enrolled northern 
elements, some of which were displeased with the northern SNL 
representatives in the coalition government. Husseen 's attempt 
failed. In May 1962, however, Igaal and another northern SNL 
minister resigned from the cabinet and took many SNL followers 
with them into a new party, the Somali National Congress (SNC), 
which won widespread northern support. The new party also gained 
support in the south when it was joined by an SYL faction com- 
posed predominantly of Hawiye. This move gave the country three 
truly national political parties and further served to blur north-south 


Despite the difficulties encountered in integrating north and 
south, the most important political issue in postindependence Somali 
politics was the unification of all areas populated by Somalis into 
one country — a concept identified as pan-Somalism, or Greater 
Somalia. Politicians assumed that this issue dominated popular 
opinion and that any government would fall if it did not demon- 
strate a militant attitude toward neighboring countries occupying 
Somali territory. 

Preoccupation with Greater Somalia shaped the character of the 
country's newly formed institutions and led to the build-up of the 
Somali military and, ultimately, to the war with Ethiopia and fight- 
ing in the NFD in Kenya. By law the exact size of the National 
Assembly was not established in order to facilitate the inclusion 
of representatives of the contested areas after unification. The na- 
tional flag featured a five-pointed star whose points represented 
those areas claimed as part of the Somali nation — the former Italian 
and British territories, the Ogaden, Djibouti, and the NFD. 
Moreover, the preamble to the constitution approved in 1961 in- 
cluded the statement, "The Somali Republic promotes by legal 
and peaceful means, the union of the territories." The constitu- 
tion also provided that all ethnic Somalis, no matter where they 
resided, were citizens of the republic. Somalia did not claim 
sovereignty over adjacent territories, but rather demanded that 
Somalis living in them be granted the right to self-determination. 
Somali leaders asserted that they would be satisfied only when their 
fellow Somalis outside the republic had the opportunity to decide 
for themselves what their status would be. 

At the 1961 London talks on the future of Kenya, Somali 
representatives from the NFD demanded that Britain arrange for 


Historical Setting 

the NFD's separation before Kenya was granted independence. 
The British government appointed a commission to ascertain popu- 
lar opinion in the NFD on the question. Its investigation indicat- 
ed that separation from Kenya was almost unanimously supported 
by the Somalis and their fellow nomadic pastoralists, the Oromo. 
These two peoples, it was noted, represented a majority of the 
NFD's population. 

Despite Somali diplomatic activity, the colonial government in 
Kenya did not act on the commission's findings. British officials 
believed that the federal format then proposed in the Kenyan con- 
stitution would provide a solution through the degree of autono- 
my it allowed the predominantly Somali region within the federal 
system. This solution did not diminish Somali demands for unifi- 
cation, however, and the modicum of federalism disappeared af- 
ter Kenya's government opted for a centralized constitution in 1964. 

The denial of Somali claims led to growing hostility between the 
Kenyan government and Somalis in the NFD. Adapting easily to 
life as shiftas, or bandits, the Somalis conducted a guerrilla cam- 
paign against the police and army for more than four years be- 
tween 1960 and 1964. The Somali government officially denied 
Kenya's charges that the guerrillas were trained in Somalia, 
equipped there with Soviet arms, and directed from Mogadishu. 
But it could not deny that the Voice of Somalia radio influenced 
the level of guerrilla activity by means of its broadcasts beamed 
into Kenya. 

Somalia refused to acknowledge in particular the validity of the 
Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1954 recognizing Ethiopia's claim to 
the Haud or, in general, the relevance of treaties defining Somali- 
Ethiopian borders. Somalia's position was based on three points: 
first, that the treaties disregarded agreements made with the clans 
that had put them under British protection; second, that the Somalis 
were not consulted on the terms of the treaties and in fact had not 
been informed of their existence; and third, that such treaties vio- 
lated the self-determination principle. 

Incidents began to occur in the Haud within six months after 
Somali independence. At first the incidents were confined to minor 
clashes between Ethiopian police and armed parties of Somali 
nomads, usually resulting from traditional provocations such as 
smuggling, livestock rustling, and tax collecting, rather than ir- 
redentist agitation. Their actual causes aside, these incidents tended 
to be viewed in Somalia as expressions of Somali nationalism. 
Hostilities grew steadily, eventually involving small-scale actions 
between Somali and Ethiopian armed forces along the border. In 
February 1964, armed conflict erupted along the Somali-Ethiopian 


Somalia: A Country Study 

frontier, and Ethiopian aircraft raided targets in Somalia. Hostili- 
ties ended in April through the mediation of Sudan, acting under 
the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Under 
the terms of the cease-fire, a joint commission was established to 
examine the causes of frontier incidents, and a demilitarized zone 
ten to fifteen kilometers wide was established on either side of the 
border. At least temporarily, further military confrontations were 

Ethiopia and Kenya concluded a mutual defense pact in 1964 
in response to what both countries perceived as a continuing threat 
from Somalia. This pact was renewed in 1980 and again on Au- 
gust 28, 1987, calling for the coordination of the armed forces of 
both states in the event of an attack by Somalia. Most OAU mem- 
bers were alienated by Somali irredentism and feared that if Somalia 
were successful in detaching the Somali-populated portions of Kenya 
and Ethiopia, the example might inspire their own restive minori- 
ties divided by frontiers imposed during the colonial period. In ad- 
dition, in making its irredentist claims, the Somalis had challenged 
two of Africa's leading elder statesmen, President Jomo Kenyatta 
of Kenya and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. 

Foreign Relations, 1960-69 

Somalia's government was in the hands of leaders who were 
favorably disposed toward the Western democracies, particularly 
Italy and Britain, in whose political traditions many of them had 
been educated. Nevertheless, as a reflection of its desire to dem- 
onstrate self-reliance and nonalignment, the Somali government 
established ties with the Soviet Union and China soon after in- 

The growth of Soviet influence in Somalia dated from 1962, when 
Moscow agreed to provide loans to finance the training and equip- 
ping of the armed forces. By the late 1960s, about 300 Soviet mili- 
tary personnel were serving as advisers to the Somali forces, whose 
inventories had been stocked almost entirely with equipment of East 
European manufacture (see Foreign Military Assistance, ch. 5). 
During the same period, about 500 Somalis received military train- 
ing in the Soviet Union. As a result of their contact with Soviet 
personnel, some Somali military officers developed a Marxist per- 
spective on important issues that contrasted with the democratic 
outlook of most of the country's civilian leaders. 

The Soviet Union also provided nonmilitary assistance, includ- 
ing technical training scholarships, printing presses, broadcasting 
equipment for the government, and agricultural and industrial de- 
velopment aid. By 1969 considerable nonmilitary assistance had 


Historical Setting 

also been provided by China. Such projects included the construc- 
tion of hospitals and factories and in the 1970s of the major north- 
south road. 

Somalia's relations with Italy after independence remained good, 
and Italian influence continued in the modernized sectors of so- 
cial and cultural affairs. Although their number had dropped to 
about 3,000 by 1965, the Italians residing in Somalia still domi- 
nated many of the country's economic activities. Italian economic 
assistance during the 1960s totaled more than a quarter of all the 
nonmilitary foreign aid received, and Italy was an important market 
for Somali goods, particularly food crops produced on the large, 
Italian-owned commercial farms in the river valleys. Italy's spon- 
sorship enabled Somalia to become an associate of the European 
Economic Community (EEC), which formed another source of eco- 
nomic and technical aid and assured preferential status for Somali 
exports in West European markets. 

In contrast to the cordial relations maintained with Italy, Somalia 
severed diplomatic ties to Britain in 1962 to protest British sup- 
port of Kenya's position on the NFD. Somalia's relations with 
France were likewise strained because of opposition to the French 
presence in the Territory of the Afars and Issas (formerly French 
Somaliland, later independent Djibouti). Meanwhile, the Federal 
Republic of Germany (West Germany) provided Somalia with a 
moderate amount of aid, most notably sharing with Italy and the 
United States the task of training the police force. The Somali 
government purposely sought a variety of foreign sponsors to in- 
struct its security forces, and Western-trained police were seen as 
counterbalancing the Soviet-trained military. Likewise, the divi- 
sion of training missions was believed to reduce dependence on 
either the West or the communist countries to meet Somali securi- 
ty needs (see Somalia Police Force, ch. 5). 

Throughout the 1960s, the United States supplied nonmilitary 
aid to Somalia, a large proportion of it in the form of grants. But 
the image of the United States in the eyes of most Somalis was in- 
fluenced more by its support for Ethiopia than by any assistance to 
Somalia. The large scale of United States military aid to Ethiopia 
was particularly resented. Although aid to that country had begun 
long before the Somali-Ethiopian conflict and was based on other 
considerations, the Somalis' attitude remained unchanged as long 
as the United States continued to train and equip a hostile neighbor. 

The Husseen Government 

Countrywide municipal elections, in which the SYL won 74 per- 
cent of the seats, occurred in November 1963. These were followed 


Somalia: A Country Study 

in March 1964 by the country's first postindependence national 
elections. Again the SYL triumphed, winning 69 out of 123 
parliamentary seats. The party's true margin of victory was even 
greater, as the fifty-four seats won by the opposition were divided 
among a number of small parties. 

After the 1964 National Assembly election in March, a crisis oc- 
curred that left Somalia without a government until the beginning 
of September. President Usmaan, who was empowered to propose 
the candidate for prime minister after an election or the fall of a 
government, chose Abdirizaaq Haaji Husseen as his nominee in- 
stead of the incumbent, Shermaarke, who had the endorsement 
of the SYL party leadership. Shermaarke had been prime minister 
for the four previous years, and Usmaan decided that new leader- 
ship might be able to introduce fresh ideas for solving national 

In drawing up a Council of Ministers for presentation to the Na- 
tional Assembly, the nominee for prime minister chose candidates 
on the basis of ability and without regard to place of origin. But 
Husseen' s choices strained intraparty relations and broke the un- 
written rules that there be clan and regional balance. For instance, 
only two members of Shermaarke 's cabinet were to be retained, 
and the number of posts in northern hands was to be increased 
from two to five. 

The SYL's governing Central Committee and its parliamentary 
groups became split. Husseen had been a party member since 1944 
and had participated in the two previous Shermaarke cabinets. His 
primary appeal was to younger and more educated party mem- 
bers. Several political leaders who had been left out of the cabinet 
joined the supporters of Shermaarke to form an opposition group 
within the party. As a result, the Husseen faction sought support 
among non-SYL members of the National Assembly. 

Although the disagreements primarily involved personal or group 
political ambitions, the debate leading to the initial vote of confi- 
dence centered on the issue of Greater Somalia. Both Usmaan and 
prime minister-designate Husseen wanted to give priority to the 
country's internal economic and social problems. Although Hus- 
seen had supported militant pan-Somalism, he was portrayed as 
willing to accept the continued sovereignty of Ethiopia and Kenya 
over Somali areas. 

The proposed cabinet failed to be confirmed by a margin of two 
votes. Seven National Assembly members, including Shermaarke, 
abstained, while forty-eight members of the SYL voted for Hus- 
seen and thirty-three opposed him. Despite the apparent split in 
the SYL, it continued to attract recruits from other parties. In the 


Historical Setting 

first three months after the election, seventeen members of the 
parliamentary opposition resigned from their parties to join the 

Usmaan ignored the results of the vote and again nominated Hus- 
seen as prime minister. After intraparty negotiation, which included 
the reinstatement of four party officials expelled for voting against 
him, Husseen presented a second cabinet list to the National As- 
sembly that included all but one of his earlier nominees. However, 
the proposed new cabinet contained three additional ministerial 
positions filled by men chosen to mollify opposition factions. The 
new cabinet was approved with the support of all but a handful 
of SYL National Assembly members. Husseen remained in office 
until the presidential elections of June 1967. 

The 1967 presidential elections, conducted by a secret poll of 
National Assembly members, pitted former prime minister Sher- 
maarke against Usmaan. Again the central issue was moderation 
versus militancy on the pan-Somali question. Usmaan, through 
Husseen, had stressed priority for internal development. Sher- 
maarke, who had served as prime minister when pan-Somalism 
was at its height, was elected president of the republic. 

The Igaal Government 

The new president nominated as prime minister Mahammad 
Ibrahim Igaal, who raised cabinet membership from thirteen to 
fifteen members and included representatives of every major clan- 
family, as well as some members of the rival SNC. In August 1967, 
the National Assembly confirmed his appointment without seri- 
ous opposition. Although the new prime minister had supported 
Shermaarke in the presidential election, he was a northerner and 
had led a 1962 defection of the northern SNL assembly members 
from the government. He had also been closely involved in the 
founding of the SNC but, with many other northern members of 
that group, had rejoined the SYL after the 1964 elections. 

A more important difference between Shermaarke and Igaal, 
other than their past affiliations, was the new prime minister's 
moderate position on pan-Somali issues and his desire for improved 
relations with other African countries. In these areas, he was al- 
lied with the "modernists" in the government, parliament, and 
administration who favored redirecting the nation's energies from 
confrontation with its neighbors to combating social and econom- 
ic ills. Although many of his domestic policies seemed more in line 
with those of the previous administration, Igaal continued to hold 
the confidence of both Shermaarke and the National Assembly 


Somalia: A Country Study 

during the eighteen months preceding the March 1969 national 

Igaal's policy of regional detente resulted in improved relations 
with Ethiopia and Kenya. The prime minister did not relinquish 
Somalia's territorial claims, but he hoped to create an atmosphere 
in which the issue could be peacefully negotiated. In September 
1968, Somalia and Ethiopia agreed to establish commercial air and 
telecommunication links. The termination of the state of emergency 
in the border regions, which had been declared by Ethiopia in 
February 1964, permitted the resumption of free access by Somali 
pastoralists to their traditional grazing lands and the reopening of 
the road across Ethiopian territory between Mogadishu and Har- 
geysa. With foreign affairs a less consuming issue, the government's 
energy and the country's meager resources could now be applied 
more effectively to the challenges of internal development. However, 
the relaxation of tensions had an unanticipated effect. The con- 
flict with its neighbors had promoted Somalia's internal political 
cohesion and solidified public opinion at all levels on at least one 
issue. As tension from that source subsided, old cleavages based 
on clan rivalries became more prominent. 

The March 1969 elections were the first to combine voting for 
municipal and National Assembly posts. Sixty-four parties con- 
tested the elections. Only the SYL, however, presented candidates 
in every election district, in many cases without opposition. Eight 
other parties presented lists of candidates for national offices in most 
districts. Of the remaining fifty-five parties, only twenty- four gained 
representation in the assembly, but all of these were disbanded 
almost immediately when their fifty members joined the SYL. 

Both the plethora of parties and the defection to the majority 
party were typical of Somali parliamentary elections. To register 
for elective office, a candidate merely needed either the support 
of 500 voters or the sponsorship of his clan, expressed through a 
vote of its traditional assembly. After registering, the office seeker 
then attempted to become the official candidate of a political party. 
Failing this, he would remain on the ballot as an individual con- 
testant. Voting was by party list, which could make a candidate 
a one-person party. (This practice explained not only the prolifer- 
ation of small parties but also the transient nature of party sup- 
port.) Many candidates affiliated with a major party only long 
enough to use its symbol in the election campaign and, if elected, 
abandoned it for the winning side as soon as the National Assem- 
bly met. Thus, by the end of May 1969 the SYL parliamentary 
cohort had swelled from 73 to 109. 


Old fort, used as museum, Mogadishu 
Courtesy R.W.S. Hudson 

In addition, the eleven SNC members had formed a coalition 
with the SYL, which held 120 of the 123 seats in the National As- 
sembly. A few of these 120 left the SYL after the composition of 
Igaal's cabinet became clear and after the announcement of his 
program, both of which were bound to displease some who had 
joined only to be on the winning side. Offered a huge list of candi- 
dates, the almost 900,000 voters in 1969 took delight in defeating 
incumbents. Of the incumbent deputies, 77 out of 123 were not 
returned (including 8 out of 18 members of the previous cabinet), 
but these figures did not unequivocally demonstrate dissatisfaction 
with the government. Statistically, they were nearly identical with 
the results of the 1964 election, and, given the profusion of parties 
and the system of proportional representation, a clear sense of public 
opinion could not be obtained solely on the basis of the election 
results. The fact that a single party — the SYL — dominated the field 
implied neither stability nor solidarity. Anthropologist I.M. Lewis 
has noted that the SYL government was a very heterogeneous group 
with diverging personal and lineage interests. 

Candidates who had lost seats in the assembly and those who 
had supported them were frustrated and angry. A number of 
charges were made of government election fraud, at least some firm- 
ly founded. Discontent was exacerbated when the Supreme Court, 


Somalia: A Country Study 

under its newly appointed president, declined to accept jurisdic- 
tion over election petitions, although it had accepted such juris- 
diction on an earlier occasion. 

Neither the president nor the prime minister seemed particu- 
larly concerned about official corruption and nepotism. Although 
these practices were conceivably normal in a society based on kin- 
ship, some were bitter over their prevalence in the National As- 
sembly, where it seemed that deputies ignored their constituents 
in trading votes for personal gain. 

Among those most dissatisfied with the government were intellec- 
tuals and members of the armed forces and police. (General Ma- 
hammad Abshir, the chief of police, had resigned just before the 
elections after refusing to permit police vehicles to transport SYL 
voters to the polls.) Of these dissatisfied groups, the most signifi- 
cant element was the military, which since 1961 had remained out- 
side politics. It had done so partly because the government had 
not called upon it for support and partly because, unlike most other 
African armed forces, the Somali National Army had a genuine 
external mission in which it was supported by all Somalis — that 
of protecting the borders with Ethiopia and Kenya. 

Coup d'Etat 

The stage was set for a coup d'etat, but the event that precipi- 
tated the coup was unplanned. On October 15, 1969, a bodyguard 
killed president Shermaarke while prime minister Igaal was out 
of the country. (The assassin, a member of a lineage said to have 
been badly treated by the president, was subsequently tried and 
executed by the revolutionary government.) Igaal returned to 
Mogadishu to arrange for the selection of a new president by the 
National Assembly. His choice was, like Shermaarke, a member 
of the Daarood clan-family (Igaal was an Isaaq). Government crit- 
ics, particularly a group of army officers, saw no hope for improv- 
ing the country's situation by this means. On October 21, 1969, 
when it became apparent that the assembly would support Igaal 's 
choice, army units took over strategic points in Mogadishu and 
rounded up government officials and other prominent political 
figures. The police cooperated with the army. 

Although not regarded as the author of the military takeover, 
army commander Major General Mahammad Siad Barre assumed 
leadership of the officers who deposed the civilian government. The 
new governing body, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), 
installed Siad Barre as its president. The SRC arrested and detained 
at the presidential palace leading members of the democratic re- 
gime, including Igaal. The SRC banned political parties, abolished 


Historical Setting 

the National Assembly, and suspended the constitution. The new 
regime's goals included an end to "tribalism, nepotism, corrup- 
tion, and misrule." Existing treaties were to be honored, but na- 
tional liberation movements and Somali unification were to be 
supported. The country was renamed the Somali Democratic 

The Revolutionary Regime 

The military coup that ended the democratic regime retroactively 
defined its action as a Marxist revolution not only instituting a new 
political order but also proposing the radical transformation of 
Somali society through the application of "scientific socialism." 
Despite the presence of Soviet advisers with the armed forces, no 
evidence indicated that the coup was Soviet-inspired. SRC mem- 
bers included officers ranging in rank from major general (Siad 
Barre and Jaama Ali Qporsheel) to captain, but the young Soviet- 
trained junior officers — versed in Marx and Lenin — who had en- 
couraged the coup were excluded from important positions in the 
revolutionary regime. 

The SRC, which was synonymous with the new government, 
reorganized the country's political and legal institutions, formu- 
lated a guiding ideology based on the Quran as well as on Marx, 
and purged civilian officials who were not susceptible to "reedu- 
cation." The influence of lineage groups at all levels and elitism 
in public life based on clan affiliation were targeted for eradica- 
tion. Eventually, Siad Barre emerged as Somalia's strongman, 
spokesman for its revolution, and leader of its government. In 1971 
he announced the regime's intention to phase out military rule af- 
ter the establishment of a political party whose central committee 
ultimately would supersede the SRC as a policy- and decision- 
making body. 

Supreme Revolutionary Council 

The SRC also gave priority to rapid economic and social de- 
velopment through "crash programs," efficient and responsive 
government, and creation of a standard written form of Somali 
as the country's single official language. The regime pledged con- 
tinuance of regional detente in its foreign relations without relin- 
quishing Somali claims to disputed territories. 

The SRC's domestic program, known as the First Charter of 
the Revolution, appeared in 1969. Along with Law Number 1, an 
enabling instrument promulgated on the day of the military 
takeover, the First Charter provided the institutional and ideolog- 
ical framework of the new regime. Law Number 1 assigned to the 


Somalia: A Country Study 

SRC all functions previously performed by the president, the Na- 
tional Assembly, and the Council of Ministers, as well as many 
duties of the courts. The role of the twenty-five-member military 
junta was that of an executive committee that made decisions and 
had responsibility to formulate and execute policy. Actions were 
based on majority vote, but deliberations rarely were published. 
SRC members met in specialized committees to oversee govern- 
ment operations in given areas. A subordinate fourteen-man 
secretariat — the Council of the Secretaries of State (CSS) — 
functioned as a cabinet and was responsible for day-to-day govern- 
ment operation, although it lacked political power. The CSS con- 
sisted largely of civilians, but until 1974 several key ministries were 
headed by military officers who were concurrently members of the 
SRC. Existing legislation from the previous democratic govern- 
ment remained in force unless specifically abrogated by the SRC , 
usually on the grounds that it was "incompatible . . . with the spirit 
of the Revolution." In February 1970, the democratic constitu- 
tion of 1960, suspended at the time of the coup, was repealed by 
the SRC under powers conferred by Law Number 1. 

Although the SRC monopolized executive and legislative authori- 
ty, Siad Barre filled a number of executive posts: titular head of 
state, chairman of the CSS (and thereby head of government), com- 
mander in chief of the armed forces, and president of the SRC. 
His titles were of less importance, however, than was his personal 
authority, to which most SRC members deferred, and his ability 
to manipulate the clans. 

Military and police officers, including some SRC members, 
headed government agencies and public institutions to supervise 
economic development, financial management, trade, commu- 
nications, and public utilities. Military officers replaced civilian 
district and regional officials. Meanwhile, civil servants attended 
reorientation courses that combined professional training with po- 
litical indoctrination, and those found to be incompetent or politi- 
cally unreliable were fired. A mass dismissal of civil servants in 
1974, however, was dictated in part by economic pressures. 

The legal system functioned after the coup, subject to modifica- 
tion. In 1970 special tribunals, the National Security Courts 
(NSCs), were set up as the judicial arm of the SRC. Using a mili- 
tary attorney as prosecutor, the courts operated outside the ordi- 
nary legal system as watchdogs against activities considered to be 
counterrevolutionary. The first cases that the courts dealt with in- 
volved Shermaarke's assassination and charges of corruption leveled 
by the SRC against members of the democratic regime. The NSC 
subsequently heard cases with and without political content. A 


Historical Setting 

uniform civil code introduced in 1973 replaced predecessor laws 
inherited from the Italians and British and also imposed restric- 
tions on the activities of sharia courts. The new regime subsequently 
extended the death penalty and prison sentences to individual 
offenders, formally eliminating collective responsibility through the 
payment of diya (see Glossary) or blood money (see Courts, ch. 4). 

The SRC also overhauled local government, breaking up the 
old regions into smaller units as part of a long-range decentraliza- 
tion program intended to destroy the influence of the traditional 
clan assemblies and, in the government's words, to bring govern- 
ment "closer to the people." Local councils, composed of mili- 
tary administrators and representatives appointed by the SRC , were 
established under the Ministry of Interior at the regional, district, 
and village levels to advise the government on local conditions and 
to expedite its directives. Other institutional innovations included 
the organization (under Soviet direction) of the National Security 
Service (NSS), directed initially at halting the flow of profession- 
als and dissidents out of the country and at counteracting attempts 
to settle disputes among the clans by traditional means. The new- 
ly formed Ministry of Information and National Guidance set up 
local political education bureaus to carry the government's mes- 
sage to the people and used Somalia's print and broadcast media 
for the "success of the socialist, revolutionary road." A censor- 
ship board, appointed by the ministry, tailored information to SRC 

The SRC took its toughest political stance in the campaign to 
break down the solidarity of the lineage groups. Tribalism was con- 
demned as the most serious impediment to national unity. Siad 
Barre denounced tribalism in a wider context as a "disease" ob- 
structing development not only in Somalia, but also throughout 
the Third World. The government meted out prison terms and 
fines for a broad category of proscribed activities classified as tribal- 
ism. Traditional headmen, whom the democratic government had 
paid a stipend, were replaced by reliable local dignitaries known 
as "peacekeepers" (nabod doan) , appointed by Mogadishu to repre- 
sent government interests. Community identification rather than 
lineage affiliation was forcefully advocated at orientation centers 
set up in every district as the foci of local political and social ac- 
tivity. For example, the SRC decreed that all marriage ceremo- 
nies should occur at an orientation center. Siad Barre presided over 
these ceremonies from time to time and contrasted the benefits of 
socialism to the evils he associated with tribalism. 

To increase production and control over the nomads, the govern- 
ment resettled 140,000 nomadic pastoralists in farming communities 


Somalia: A Country Study 

and in coastal towns, where the erstwhile herders were encouraged 
to engage in agriculture and fishing. By dispersing the nomads and 
severing their ties with the land to which specific clans made col- 
lective claim, the government may also have undercut clan solidar- 
ity. In many instances, real improvement in the living conditions 
of resettled nomads was evident, but despite government efforts 
to eliminate it, clan consciousness as well as a desire to return to 
the nomadic life persisted. Concurrent SRC attempts to improve 
the status of Somali women were unpopular in a traditional Mus- 
lim society, despite Siad Barre's argument that such reforms were 
consonant with Islamic principles. 

Challenges to the Regime 

The SRC announced on two occasions that it had discovered 
plotters in the act of initiating coup attempts. Both instances in- 
volved SRC members. In April 1970, Qporsheel, the first vice presi- 
dent, was arrested and charged with treason. Qporsheel represented 
the more conservative police and army elements and thus opposed 
the socialist orientation of the majority of SRC members. He was 
convicted of treason in a trial before the National Security Court 
and sentenced to a prison term. 

In May 1971, the second vice president, Major General Ma- 
hammad Ainanche, and a fellow SRC member, Soviet-trained 
Lieutenant Colonel Salah Gaveire Kedie, who had served as head 
of the Ministry of Defense and later as secretary of state for com- 
munications, were arrested along with several other army officers 
for plotting Siad Barre's assassination. The conspirators, who had 
sought the support of clans that had lost influence in the 1969 over- 
throw of the democratic regime, appeared to have been motivated 
by personal rivalries rather than by ideology. Accused of conspir- 
ing to assassinate the president, the two key figures in the plot and 
another army officer were executed after a lengthy trial. 

By 1974 the SRC felt sufficiently secure to release Qporsheel and 
most of the leaders of the democratic regime who had been detained 
since the 1969 coup. Igaal and four other former ministers were 
excepted from the amnesty, however, and were sentenced to long 
prison terms. Igaal received thirty years for embezzlement and con- 
spiracy against the state. 

Siad Barre and Scientific Socialism 

Somalia's adherence to socialism became official on the first an- 
niversary of the military coup when Siad Barre proclaimed that 
Somalia was a socialist state, despite the fact that the country had 
no history of class conflict in the Marxist sense. For purposes of 


Statue of socialist workers, Mogadishu, erected in the 1970s 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Marxist analysis, therefore, tribalism was equated with class in a 
society struggling to liberate itself from distinctions imposed by line- 
age group affiliation. At the time, Siad Barre explained that the 
official ideology consisted of three elements: his own conception 
of community development based on the principle of self-reliance, 
a form of socialism based on Marxist principles, and Islam. These 
were subsumed under scientific socialism, although such a defini- 
tion was at variance with the Soviet and Chinese models to which 
reference was frequently made. 

The theoretical underpinning of the state ideology combined 
aspects of the Quran with the influences of Marx, Lenin, Mao, 
and Mussolini, but Siad Barre was pragmatic in its application. 
"Socialism is not a religion," he explained; "it is a political prin- 
ciple" to organize government and manage production. Somalia's 
alignment with communist states, coupled with its proclaimed ad- 
herence to scientific socialism, led to frequent accusations that the 
country had become a Soviet satellite. For all the rhetoric extoll- 
ing scientific socialism, however, genuine Marxist sympathies were 
not deep-rooted in Somalia. But the ideology was acknowledged — 
partly in view of the country's economic and military dependence 
on the Soviet Union — as the most convenient peg on which to hang 
a revolution introduced through a military coup that had supplanted 
a Western-oriented parliamentary democracy. 

More important than Marxist ideology to the popular acceptance 
of the revolutionary regime in the early 1970s were the personal 
power of Siad Barre and the image he projected. Styled the "Vic- 
torious Leader" (Guulwaadde), Siad Barre fostered the growth of 
a personality cult. Portraits of him in the company of Marx and 
Lenin festooned the streets on public occasions. The epigrams, ex- 
hortations, and advice of the paternalistic leader who had synthe- 
sized Marx with Islam and had found a uniquely Somali path to 
socialist revolution were widely distributed in Siad Barre 's little 
blue-and-white book. Despite the revolutionary regime's intention 
to stamp out clan politics, the government was commonly referred 
to by the code name MOD. This acronym stood for Mareehaan 
(Siad Barre's clan), Ogaden (the clan of Siad Barre's mother), and 
Dulbahante (the clan of Siad Barre's son-in-law, Colonel Ahmad 
Sulaymaan Abdullah, who headed the NSS). These were the three 
clans whose members formed the government's inner circle. In 
1975, for example, ten of the twenty members of the SRC were 
from the Daarood clan-family, of which these three clans were a 
part; the Digil and Rahanwayn, the sedentary interriverine clan- 
families, were totally unrepresented. 


Historical Setting 

The Language and Literacy Issue 

One of the principal objectives of the revolutionary regime was 
the adoption of a standard orthography of the Somali language. 
Such a system would enable the government to make Somali the 
country's official language. Since independence Italian and En- 
glish had served as the languages of administration and instruc- 
tion in Somalia's schools. All government documents had been 
published in the two European languages. Indeed, it had been con- 
sidered necessary that certain civil service posts of national impor- 
tance be held by two officials, one proficient in English and the 
other in Italian. During the Husseen and Igaal governments, when 
a number of English-speaking northerners were put in prominent 
positions, English had dominated Italian in official circles and had 
even begun to replace it as a medium of instruction in southern 
schools. Arabic — or a heavily arabized Somali — also had been wide- 
ly used in cultural and commercial areas and in Islamic schools 
and courts. Religious traditionalists and supporters of Somalia's 
integration into the Arab world had advocated that Arabic be adopt- 
ed as the official language, with Somali as a vernacular. 

A few months after independence, the Somali Language Com- 
mittee was appointed to investigate the best means of writing Soma- 
li. The committee considered nine scripts, including Arabic, Latin, 
and various indigenous scripts. Its report, issued in 1962, favored 
the Latin script, which the committee regarded as the best suited 
to represent the phonemic structure of Somali and flexible enough 
to be adjusted for the dialects. Facility with a Latin system, 
moreover, offered obvious advantages to those who sought higher 
education outside the country. Modern printing equipment would 
also be more easily and reasonably available for Latin type. Exist- 
ing Somali grammars prepared by foreign scholars, although out- 
dated for modern teaching methods, would give some initial 
advantage in the preparation of teaching materials. Disagreement 
had been so intense among opposing factions, however, that no 
action was taken to adopt a standard script, although successive 
governments continued to reiterate their intention to resolve the 

On coming to power, the SRC made clear that it viewed the 
official use of foreign languages, of which only a relatively small 
fraction of the population had an adequate working knowledge, 
as a threat to national unity, contributing to the stratification of 
society on the basis of language. In 1971 the SRC revived the Somali 
Language Committee and instructed it to prepare textbooks for 
schools and adult education programs, a national grammar, and 


Somalia: A Country Study 

a new Somali dictionary. However, no decision was made at the 
time concerning the use of a particular script, and each member 
of the committee worked in the one with which he was familiar. 
The understanding was that, upon adoption of a standard script, 
all materials would be immediately transcribed. 

On the third anniversary of the 1969 coup, the SRC announced 
that a Latin script had been adopted as the standard script to be 
used throughout Somalia beginning January 1, 1973. As a prereq- 
uisite for continued government service, all officials were given three 
months (later extended to six months) to learn the new script and 
to become proficient in it. During 1973 educational material writ- 
ten in the standard orthography was introduced in elementary 
schools and by 1975 was also being used in secondary and higher 

Somalia's literacy rate was estimated at only 5 percent in 1972. 
After adopting the new script, the SRC launched a "cultural revo- 
lution" aimed at making the entire population literate in two years. 
The first part of the massive literacy campaign was carried out in 
a series of three-month sessions in urban and rural sedentary areas 
and reportedly resulted in several hundred thousand people learn- 
ing to read and write. As many as 8,000 teachers were recruited, 
mostly among government employees and members of the armed 
forces, to conduct the program. 

The campaign in settled areas was followed by preparations for 
a major effort among the nomads that got underway in August 
1974. The program in the countryside was carried out by more 
than 20,000 teachers, half of whom were secondary school students 
whose classes were suspended for the duration of the school year. 
The rural program also compelled a privileged class of urban youth 
to share the hardships of the nomadic pastoralists. Although affected 
by the onset of a severe drought, the program appeared to have 
achieved substantial results in the field in a short period of time 
(see Language and Education, ch. 2). Nevertheless, the UN esti- 
mate of Somalia's literacy rate in 1990 was only 24 percent. 

Creation of the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party 

One of the SRC's first acts was to prohibit the existence of any 
political association. Under Soviet pressure to create a communist 
party structure to replace Somalia's military regime, Siad Barre 
had announced as early as 1971 the SRC's intention to establish 
a one-party state. The SRC already had begun organizing what 
was described as a "vanguard of the revolution" composed of mem- 
bers of a socialist elite drawn from the military and the civilian 
sectors. The National Public Relations Office (retitled the National 


Historical Setting 

Political Office in 1973) was formed to propagate scientific social- 
ism with the support of the Ministry of Information and National 
Guidance through orientation centers that had been built around 
the country, generally as local self-help projects. 

The SRC convened a congress of the Somali Revolutionary So- 
cialist Party (SRSP) in June 1976 and voted to establish the 
Supreme Council as the new party's central committee. The council 
included the nineteen officers who composed the SRC, in addi- 
tion to civilian advisers, heads of ministries, and other public figures. 
Civilians accounted for a majority of the Supreme Council's 
seventy-three members. On July 1, 1976, the SRC dissolved it- 
self, formally vesting power over the government in the SRSP un- 
der the direction of the Supreme Council. 

In theory the SRSP's creation marked the end of military rule, 
but in practice real power over the party and the government re- 
mained with the small group of military officers who had been most 
influential in the SRC. Decision-making power resided with the 
new party's politburo, a select committee of the Supreme Council 
that was composed of five former SRC members, including Siad 
Barre and his son-in-law, NSS chief Abdullah. Siad Barre was also 
secretary general of the SRSP, as well as chairman of the Council 
of Ministers, which had replaced the CSS in 1981. Military in- 
fluence in the new government increased with the assignment of 
former SRC members to additional ministerial posts. The MOD 
circle also had wide representation on the Supreme Council and 
in other party organs. Upon the establishment of the SRSP, the 
National Political Office was abolished; local party leadership as- 
sumed its functions. 

Somalia's Difficult Decade, 1980-90 
Entrenching Siad Barre's Personal Rule 

The Ogaden War of 1977-78 between Somalia and Ethiopia and 
the consequent refugee influx forced Somalia to depend for its eco- 
nomic survival on humanitarian handouts (see The Ogaden War: 
Performance and Implications of Defeat, ch. 5). Domestically, the 
lost war produced a national mood of depression. Organized op- 
position groups began to emerge, and in dealing with them Siad 
Barre intensified his political repression, using jailings, torture, and 
summary executions of dissidents and collective punishment of clans 
thought to have engaged in organized resistance. 

Siad Barre's new Western friends, especially the United States, 
which had replaced the Soviet Union as the main user of the naval 
facilities at Berbera, turned out to be reluctant allies. Although 


Somalia: A Country Study 

prepared to help the Siad Barre regime economically through direct 
grants, World Bank (see Glossary)-sponsored loans, and relaxed 
International Monetary Fund (IMF — see Glossary) regulations, 
the United States hesitated to offer Somalia more military aid than 
was essential to maintain internal security. The amount of United 
States military and economic aid to the regime was US$34 million 
in 1984; by 1987 this amount had dwindled to about US$8.7 mil- 
lion, a fraction of the regime's requested allocation of US$47 mil- 
lion (see Foreign Military Assistance, ch. 5). Western countries 
were also pressuring the regime to liberalize economic and politi- 
cal life and to renounce historical Somali claims on territory in 
Kenya and Ethiopia. In response, Siad Barre held parliamentary 
elections in December 1979. A "people's parliament" was elect- 
ed, all of whose members belonged to the government party, the 
SRSP. Following the elections, Siad Barre again reshuffled the cabi- 
net, abolishing the positions of his three vice presidents. This ac- 
tion was followed by another reshuffling in October 1980, in which 
the old Supreme Revolutionary Council was revived. The move 
resulted in three parallel and overlapping bureaucratic structures 
within one administration: the party's politburo, which exercised 
executive powers through its Central Committee, the Council of 
Minsters, and the SRC. The resulting confusion of functions 
within the administration left decision making solely in Siad Barre 's 

In February 1982, Siad Barre visited the United States. He had 
responded to growing domestic criticism by releasing from deten- 
tion two leading political prisoners of conscience, former premier 
Igaal and former police commander Abshir, both of whom had lan- 
guished in prison since 1969. On June 7, 1982, apparently wish- 
ing to prove that he alone ruled Somalia, he ordered the arrest of 
seventeen prominent politicians. This development shook the "old 
establishment" because the arrests included Mahammad Aadan 
Shaykh, a prominent Mareehaan politician, detained for the sec- 
ond time; Umar Haaji Masala, chief of staff of the military, also 
a Mareehaan; and a former vice president and a former foreign 
minister. At the time of detention, one official was a member of 
the politburo; the others were members of the Central Committee 
of the SRSP. The jailing of these prominent figures created an at- 
mosphere of fear, and alienated the Isaaq, Majeerteen, and Hawiye 
clans, whose disaffection and consequent armed resistance were 
to lead to the toppling of the Siad Barre regime. 

The regime's insecurity was considerably increased by repeat- 
ed forays across the Somali border in the Mudug (central) and Boo- 
rama (northwest) areas by a combination of Somali dissidents and 


Historical Setting 

Ethiopian army units. In mid-July 1982, Somali dissidents with 
Ethiopian air support invaded Somalia in the center, threatening 
to split the country in two. The invaders managed to capture the 
Somali border towns of Balumbale and Galdogob, northwest of 
the Mudug regional capital of Galcaio. Siad Barre's regime declared 
a state of emergency in the war zone and appealed for Western 
aid to help repel the invasion. The United States government 
responded by speeding deliveries of light arms already promised. 
In addition, the initially pledged US$45 million in economic and 
military aid was increased to US$80 million. The new arms were 
not used to repel the Ethiopians, however, but to repress Siad 
Barre's domestic opponents. 

Although the Siad Barre regime received some verbal support 
at the League of Arab States (Arab League) summit conference 
in September 1982, and Somali units participated in war games 
with the United States Rapid Deployment Force in Berbera, the 
revolutionary government's position continued to erode. In De- 
cember 1984, Siad Barre sought to broaden his political base by 
amending the constitution. One amendment extended the presi- 
dent's term from six to seven years. Another amendment stipulat- 
ed that the president was to be elected by universal suffrage (Siad 
Barre always received 99 percent of the vote in such elections) rather 
than by the National Assembly. The assembly rubber-stamped these 
amendments, thereby presiding over its own disenfranchisement. 

On the diplomatic front, the regime undertook some fence mend- 
ing. An accord was signed with Kenya in December 1984 in which 
Somalia "permanently" renounced its historical territorial claims, 
and relations between the two countries thereafter began to im- 
prove. This diplomatic gain was offset, however, by the "scan- 
dal" of South African foreign minister Roelof "Pik" Botha's secret 
visit to Mogadishu the same month, in which South Africa promised 
arms to Somalia in return for landing rights for South African 

Complicating matters for the regime, at the end of 1984 the 
Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) (a guerrilla organiza- 
tion based in Ethiopia seeking to free the Ogaden and unite it with 
Somalia) announced a temporary halt in military operations against 
Ethiopia. This decision was impelled by the drought then ravag- 
ing the Ogaden and by a serious split within the WSLF, a number 
of whose leaders claimed that their struggle for self-determination 
had been used by Mogadishu to advance its expansionist policies. 
These elements said they now favored autonomy based on a fed- 
eral union with Ethiopia. This development removed Siad Barre's 


Somalia: A Country Study 

option to foment anti-Ethiopian activity in the Ogaden in retalia- 
tion for Ethiopian aid to domestic opponents of his regime. 

To overcome its diplomatic isolation, Somalia resumed relations 
with Libya in April 1985. Recognition had been withdrawn in 1977 
in response to Libyan support of Ethiopia during the Ogaden War. 
Also in early 1985, Somalia participated in a meeting of EEC and 
UN officials with the foreign ministers of several northeast Afri- 
can states to discuss regional cooperation under a planned new 
authority, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and De- 
velopment (IGADD). Formed in January 1986 and headquartered 
in Djibouti, IGADD brought together Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, 
Sudan, and Uganda in addition to Somalia. In January 1986, un- 
der the auspices of IGADD, Siad Barre met Ethiopian leader Men- 
gistu Haile-Mariam in Djibouti to discuss the "provisional" 
administrative line (the undemarcated boundary) between Ethio- 
pia and Somalia. They agreed to hold further meetings, which took 
place on and off throughout 1986-87. Although Siad Barre and 
Mengistu agreed to exchange prisoners taken in the Ogaden War 
and to cease aiding each other's domestic opponents, these plans 
were never implemented. In August 1986, Somalia held joint mili- 
tary exercises with the United States. 

Diplomatic setbacks also occurred in 1986, however. In Sep- 
tember, Somali foreign minister Abdirahmaan Jaama Barre, the 
president's brother, accused the Somali Service of the British Broad- 
casting Corporation of anti-Somali propaganda. The charge precipi- 
tated a diplomatic rift with Britain. The regime also entered into 
a dispute with Amnesty International, which charged the Somali 
regime with blatant violations of human rights. Wholesale human 
rights violations documented by Amnesty International, and sub- 
sequently by Africa Watch, prompted the United States Congress 
by 1987 to make deep cuts in aid to Somalia (see Relations with 
the United States, ch. 4). 

Economically, the regime was repeatedly pressured between 1983 
and 1987 by the IMF, the United Nations Development Pro- 
gramme, and the World Bank to liberalize its economy. Speci- 
fically, Somalia was urged to create a free-market system and to 
devalue the Somali shilling (for value of the shilling — see Glossary) 
so that its official rate would reflect its true value (see From Scien- 
tific Socialism to "IMF-ism," 1981-90, ch. 3). 

Siad Barre's Repressive Measures 

Faced with shrinking popularity and an armed and organized 
domestic resistance, Siad Barre unleashed a reign of terror against 
the Majeerteen, the Hawiye, and the Isaaq, carried out by the Red 


Historical Setting 

Berets (Duub Cas), a dreaded elite unit recruited from among the 
president's Mareehaan clansmen. Thus, byihe beginning of 1986 
Siad Barre's grip on power seemed secure, despite the host of 
problems facing the regime. The president received a severe blow 
from an unexpected quarter, however. On the evening of May 23, 
he was severely injured in an automobile accident. Astonishingly, 
although at the time he was in his early seventies and suffered from 
chronic diabetes, Siad Barre recovered sufficiently to resume the 
reins of government following a month's recuperation. But the ac- 
cident unleashed a power struggle among senior army comman- 
dants, elements of the president's Mareehaan clan, and related 
factions, whose infighting practically brought the country to a stand- 
still. Broadly, two groups contended for power: a constitutional 
faction and a clan faction. The constitutional faction was led by 
the senior vice president, Brigadier General Mahammad Ali 
Samantar; the second vice president, Major General Husseen Kul- 
miye; and generals Ahmad Sulaymaan Abdullah and Ahmad Ma- 
hamuud Faarah. The four, together with president Siad Barre, 
constituted the politburo of the SRSP. 

Opposed to the constitutional group were elements from the presi- 
dent 's Mareehaan clan, especially members of his immediate 
family, including his brother, Abdirahmaan Jaama Barre; the presi- 
dent's son, Colonel Masleh Siad; and the formidable Mama Khadi- 
ija, Siad Barre's senior wife. By some accounts, Mama Khadiija 
ran her own intelligence network, had well-placed political con- 
tacts, and oversaw a large group who had prospered under her 

In November 1986, the dreaded Red Berets unleashed a cam- 
paign of terror and intimidation on a frightened citizenry. Mean- 
while, the ministries atrophied, and the army's officer corps was 
purged of competent career officers on suspicion of insufficient 
loyalty to the president. In addition, ministers and bureaucrats plun- 
dered what was left of the national treasury after it had been repeat- 
edly skimmed by the top family. 

The same month, the SRSP held its third congress. The Cen- 
tral Committee was reshuffled, and the president was nominated 
as the only candidate for another seven-year term. Thus, with a 
weak opposition divided along clan lines, which he skillfully ex- 
ploited, Siad Barre seemed invulnerable well into 1988. The re- 
gime might have lingered indefinitely but for the wholesale 
disaffection engendered by the genocidal policies carried out against 
important lineages of Somali kinship groupings. These actions were 
waged first against the Majeerteen clan (of the Daarood clan- 
family), then against the Isaaq clans of the north, and finally against 


Somalia: A Country Study 

the Hawiye, who occupied the strategic central area of the coun- 
try, which included the capital. The disaffection of the Hawiye and 
their subsequent organized armed resistance eventually caused the 
regime's downfall. 

Persecution of the Majeerteen 

In the aftermath of the Ogaden debacle, a group of disgruntled 
army officers attempted a coup d'etat against the regime in April 

1978. Their leader was Colonel Mahammad Shaykh Usmaan, a 
member of the Majeerteen clan. The coup failed and seventeen 
alleged ringleaders, including Usmaan, were summarily execut- 
ed. All but one of the executed were of the Majeerteen clan. One 
of the plotters, Lieutenant Colonel Abdillaahi Yuusuf Ahmad, a 
Majeerteen, escaped to Ethiopia and founded an anti-Siad Barre 
organization initially called the Somali Salvation Front (SSF; later 
the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, SSDF) (see Sources of Op- 
position, ch. 5). During their preeminence in the civilian regimes, 
the Majeerteen had alienated other clans. Thus, when Siad Barre 
sent the Red Berets against the Majeerteen in Mudug Region in 

1979, other clans declined to support them. 

The Red Berets systematically smashed the small reservoirs in 
the area around Galcaio so as to deny water to the Umar Ma- 
hamuud Majeerteen sublineages and their herds. In May and June 
1979, more than 2,000 Umar Mahamuud, the Majeerteen sub- 
lineage of Colonel Ahmad, died of thirst in the waterless area north- 
east of Galcaio, Garoowe, and Jerriiban. In Galcaio, members of 
the Victory Pioneers, the urban militia notorious for harassing 
civilians, raped large numbers of Majeerteen women. In addition, 
the clan lost an estimated 50,000 camels, 10,000 cattle, and 100,000 
sheep and goats. 

Oppression of the Isaaq 

The Isaaq as a clan-family occupy the northern portion of the 
country. Three major cities are predominantly, if not exclusively, 
Isaaq: Hargeysa, the second largest city in Somalia until it was 
razed during disturbances in 1988; Burao in the interior, also de- 
stroyed by the military; and the port of Berbera. 

Formed in London on April 6, 1981 , by 400 to 500 Isaaq emigres, 
the Somali National Movement (SNM) remained an Isaaq clan- 
family organization dedicated to ridding the country of Siad Barre. 
The Isaaq felt deprived both as a clan and as a region, and Isaaq 
outbursts against the central government had occurred sporadically 
since independence. The SNM launched a military campaign in 
1988, capturing Burao on May 27 and part of Hargeysa on May 31 . 


Historical Setting 

Government forces bombarded the towns heavily in June, forcing 
the SNM to withdraw and causing more than 300,000 Isaaq to flee 
to Ethiopia. 

The military regime conducted savage reprisals against the Isaaq. 
The same methods were used as against the Majeerteen — 
destruction of water wells and grazing grounds and raping of wom- 
en. An estimated 5,000 Isaaq were killed between May 27 and the 
end of December 1988. About 4,000 died in the fighting, but 1,000, 
including women and children, were alleged to have been bayoneted 
to death. 

Harrying of the Hawiye 

The Hawiye occupy the south central portions of Somalia (see 
Samaal, ch. 2). The capital of Mogadishu is located in the coun- 
try of the Abgaal, a Hawiye subclan. In numbers the Hawiye in 
Somalia are roughly comparable to the Isaaq, occupying a distant 
second place to the Daarood clans. Southern Somalia's first prime 
minister during the UN trusteeship period, Abdullaahi Iise, was 
a Hawiye; so was the trust territory's first president, Aadan Ab- 
dullah Usmaan. The first commander of the Somali army, General 
Daauud, was also a Hawiye. Although the Hawiye had not held 
any major office since independence, they had occupied impor- 
tant administrative positions in the bureaucracy and in the top army 

In the late 1980s, disaffection with the regime set in among the 
Hawiye, who felt increasingly marginalized in the Siad Barre re- 
gime. From the town of Beledweyne in the central valley of the 
Shabeelle River to Buulobarde, to Giohar, and in Mogadishu, the 
clan was subjected to ruthless assault. Government atrocities in- 
flicted on the Hawiye were considered comparable in scale to those 
against the Majeerteen and Isaaq. By undertaking this assault on 
the Hawiye, Siad Barre committed a fatal error. By the end of 1990, 
he still controlled the capital and adjacent regions but by alienat- 
ing the Hawiye, Siad Barre turned his last stronghold into enemy 

Faced with saboteurs by day and sniper fire by night, Siad Barre 
ordered remaining units of the badly demoralized Red Berets to 
massacre civilians. By 1989 torture and murder became the order 
of the day in Mogadishu. On July 9, 1989, Somalia's Italian-born 
Roman Catholic bishop, Salvatore Colombo, was gunned down 
in his church in Mogadishu by an unknown assassin. The order 
to murder the bishop, an outspoken critic of the regime, was widely 
believed to have had come from the presidential palace. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

On the heels of the bishop's murder came the infamous July 14 
massacre, when the Red Berets slaughtered 450 Muslims demon- 
strating against the arrest of their spiritual leaders. More than 2,000 
were seriously injured. On July 15, forty-seven people, mainly from 
the Isaaq clan, were taken to Jasiira Beach west of the city and 
summarily executed. The July massacres prompted a shift in United 
States policy as the United States began to distance itself from Siad 

With the loss of United States support, the regime grew more 
desperate. An anti-Siad Barre demonstration on July 6, 1990, at 
a soccer match in the main stadium, deteriorated into a riot, caus- 
ing Siad Barre 's bodyguard to panic and open fire on the demon- 
strators. At least sixty-five people were killed. A week later, while 
the city reeled from the impact of what came to be called the Sta- 
dia Corna Affair, Siad Barre sentenced to death 46 prominent mem- 
bers of the Manifesto Group, a body of 1 14 notables who had signed 
a petition in May calling for elections and improved human rights. 
During the contrived trial that resulted in the death sentences, 
demonstrators surrounded the court and activity in the city came 
to a virtual halt. On July 13, a shaken Siad Barre dropped the 
charges against the accused. As the city celebrated victory, Siad 
Barre, conceding defeat for the first time in twenty years, retreat- 
ed into his bunker at the military barracks near the airport to save 
himself from the people's wrath. 

* * * 

Littie literature exists on the history of Somalia. In his monumen- 
tal three- volume work, Somalia: Scritti vari editi ed inediti, Enrico 
Cerulli provided the research on which most subsequent writers 
have relied. I.M. Lewis, the prolific dean of English-speaking 
Somalists, offers a valuable survey in A Modern History of Somalia, 
revised and updated in 1988 to cover the 1970s and early 1980s. 
With The Shaping of Somali Society, Lee Cassanelli has produced the 
first book-length study of precolonial Somali history. 

An excellent reference work is Margaret Castagno's Historical 
Dictionary of Somalia. Robert Hess's Italian Colonialism in Somalia offers 
a detailed review of the Italian colonial period in the south. 

Douglas Jardine's The Mad Mullah of Somaliland remains the 
classic biography of Sayyid Mahammad Abdille Hasan, the mys- 
tic, poet, and warrior leader of the Somali dervish anticolonial 
movement. Said S. Samatar's Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism 
analyzes Hasan's poetry and assesses his nationalist and literary 
contributions to the Somali heritage. I.M. Lewis's A Pastoral 


Historical Setting 

Democracy and David D. Laitin's Politics, Language, and Thought: The 
Somali Experience stand as invaluable contributions to an understand- 
ing of the social and cultural aspects of Somali history. The ori- 
gins and growth of Somali nationalist sentiment and political 
struggles are treated in Saadia Touval's Somali Nationalism. 

Somali irredentism is treated in historical context by John Drys- 
dale's The Somali Dispute. Tom Farer's War Clouds on the Horn of 
Africa deals with the same subject from a vantage point less sym- 
pathetic to Somali revolutionaries. I.M. Lewis draws on his great 
knowledge of Somali society and politics to analyze the background 
and initial consequences of the military coup in the "The Politics 
of the 1969 Somali Coup," whereas David Laitin considers the 
ongoing development of the coup in "Somalia's Military Govern- 
ment and Scientific Socialism." Both pieces appear in Socialism in 
Suh-Saharan Africa. 

Laitin and Samatar's Somalia: Nation in Search of a State provides 
a detailed analysis of the degeneration of the Somali revolution into 
a brutal dictatorship. Samatar's Somalia: A Nation in Turmoil, pub- 
lished as the Minority Rights Group Report by the London-based 
organization in August 1991, treats Siad Barre's reign of terror, 
his precipitous fall from power, and the collapse of the Somali state 
into separate regions ruled by clan-affiliated political groups. (For 
further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 2. The Society and Its Environment 

Somali nomad, symbol of the country 's 
predominantly pastoral life 

THE SOMALIS ARE A CULTURALLY, linguistically, and 
religiously homogeneous people, who are divided along clan lines 
and sparsely scattered over a harsh, dry land. There are signifi- 
cant distinctions among sectors of the population, related in part 
to variations in means of livelihood. In the early 1990s, roughly 
60 percent of an estimated population of more than 8.4 million 
were still nomadic pastoralists or seminomadic herders, subject to 
the vicissitudes of an arid climate. Twenty to 25 percent of the peo- 
ple were cultivators, most living in the southern half of the coun- 
try, on or between Somalia's two major rivers, the Jubba and the 
Shabeelle. The remainder were town dwellers, the vast majority 
of whom resided in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. 

With the fall of General Mahammad Siad Barre's regime on 
January 27, 1991, and the ensuing internal warfare that resulted 
in the disintegration of the Somali state, patterns of residency 
changed dramatically. For instance, the population of Mogadishu, 
estimated at 500,000 in the mid-1980s, witnessed the influx of thou- 
sands of refugees. As a result, Mogadishu reportedly had about 
2 million inhabitants in early 1992. Throughout the country the 
civil war, along with the lawlessness as Siad Barre's regime col- 
lapsed and the absence of functioning governmental and social in- 
stitutions, produced a chaotic situation. 

Although 95 percent of the population are ethnic Somalis, shar- 
ing a common culture, in traditional society they segmented them- 
selves into a hierarchical system of patrilineal descent groups, each 
said to originate with a single male ancestor. The most compre- 
hensive of these groups were the six clan-families (see Glossary). 
Their constituent units were the clans (see Glossary), which in turn 
were made up of lineages (see Glossary), which themselves were 
further segmented. Among the sedentary interriverine Somalis, 
however, descent gave way in part to territoriality as a framework 
for social, political, and economic organization. 

Membership in clans and lineages shaped the allocation of in- 
dividual rights and obligations. The principle of descent, however, 
was modified (although rarely overridden) by Somali heer, or tradi- 
tional jurisprudence. Contracts or treaties bound specified descent 
groups and their individual members together for the making of 
war and peace and, above all, for the provision of compensation 
in cases of homicide and injury. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

The Somali social order has been marked by competition and 
often by armed conflict between clans and lineages, even between 
units of the same clan-family or clan. Within each unit, Somali 
males considered better warriors, wiser arbiters, or abler speakers 
commanded greater respect in council. However, pastoral Soma- 
lis looked down on sedentary ones, and both looked down on non- 
Somali clients (see Glossary) of the sedentary Somalis and members 
of despised occupational groups such as hunters and smiths, who 
made up, however, only a very small proportion of the population. 

The segmented social order, with relatively minor modifications, 
was carried into the independence period. In a very poor country, 
many Somalis were disaffected by the competition for power and 
wealth that often took the form of shifting alliances and conflicts 
between greater and lesser clans and lineage segments. Simultane- 
ously, new cleavages emerged between educated urban dwellers 
who had mastered a foreign language and the less- sophisticated 
rural Somalis. 

Soon after the October 1969 military coup, Siad Barre's socialist 
government aimed an attack at the traditional system. In princi- 
ple at least, his regime reduced the significance of clans and lin- 
eages, encouraged women to participate in government and attend 
school, and sanctioned the social equality of low-status groups. The 
gap that had opened between educated English- or Italian- speaking 
Somalis and the rest of the population was reduced somewhat by 
the institution of a Somali script and the designation of Somali as 
the official language. 

Siad Barre's government insisted that socialism was compatible 
with Islam, the religion of the overwhelming majority of Somalis. 
Although Somalis had not always conformed to the rigors of or- 
thodox Islam, their identity was bound up with being Muslim. With 
few, if any, exceptions, leaders of the socialist regime were Mus- 
lims and did not attack religion. However, they also did not hesi- 
tate to institute reforms that displeased conservative Muslim leaders. 

Despite government encouragement of change, clan and lin- 
eage remained important throughout Siad Barre's rule, and Siad 
Barre remained in power by manipulating clans and clan leaders. 
In fact, soon after the revolution, kinship considerations and 
nepotism were evident at the highest levels of the regime. 

The workings of the lineage system were predicated on the soli- 
darity of the segments of the same order with one another and the 
relative equality of the members of each segment. The growth of the 
state and the development of different degrees of wealth and access 
to other private-sector resources caused an incipient stratification 


The Society and Its Environment 

that had the potential to override lineage solidarity as it diminished 

Physical Setting 

Africa's easternmost country, Somalia has a land area of 637,540 
square kilometers, slightly less than that of the state of Texas. Soma- 
lia occupies the tip of a region commonly referred to as the Horn 
of Africa — because of its resemblance on the map to a rhinoceros's 
horn — that also includes Ethiopia and Djibouti. 

Somalia's terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and high- 
lands. In the far north, however, the rugged east-west ranges of 
the Karkaar Mountains lie at varying distances from the Gulf of 
Aden coast (see fig. 3). The weather is hot throughout the year, 
except at the higher elevations in the north. Rainfall is sparse, and 
most of Somalia has a semiarid-to-arid environment suitable only 
for the nomadic pastoralism practiced by well over half the popu- 
lation. Only in limited areas of moderate rainfall in the northwest, 
and particularly in the southwest, where the country's two peren- 
nial rivers are found, is agriculture practiced to any extent. 

The local geology suggests the presence of valuable mineral 
deposits. As of 1992, however, only a few significant sites had been 
located, and mineral extraction played a very minor role in the 
economy (see Undeveloped Sectors, ch. 3). 

Somalia's long coastline (3,025 kilometers) has been of impor- 
tance chiefly in permitting trade with the Middle East and the rest 
of East Africa. The exploitation of the shore and the continental 
shelf for fishing and other purposes had barely begun by the early 
1990s. Sovereignty was claimed over territorial waters up to 200 
nautical miles. 


Climate is the primary factor in much of Somali life. For the 
large nomadic population, the timing and amount of rainfall are 
crucial determinants of the adequacy of grazing and the prospects 
of relative prosperity. During droughts such as occurred during 
1974-75 and 1984-85, starvation can occur. There are some indi- 
cations that the climate has become drier in the last century and 
that the increase in the number of people and animals has put a 
growing burden on water and vegetation. 

Somalis recognize four seasons, two rainy (gu and day) and two 
dry (jiilaal and hagaa). The gu rains begin in April and last until 
June, producing a fresh supply of pasture and for a brief period 
turning the desert into a flowering garden. Lush vegetation covers 
most of the land, especially the central grazing plateau where grass 


Somalia: A Country Study 

grows tall. Milk and meat abound, water is plentiful, and animals 
do not require much care. The clans, reprieved from four months' 
drought, assemble to engage alternately in banter and poetic ex- 
change or in a new cycle of hereditary feuds. They also offer 
sacrifices to Allah and to the founding clan ancestors, whose bless- 
ings they seek. Numerous social functions occur: marriages are con- 
tracted, outstanding disputes are settled or exacerbated, and a 
person's age is calculated in terms of the number of gus he or she 
has lived. The gu season is followed by the hagaa drought (July- 
September) and the hagaa by the day rains (October-November). 
Next is jiilaal (December-March), the harshest season for pastora- 
lists and their herds. 

Most of the country receives less than 500 millimeters of rain 
annually, and a large area encompassing the northeast and much 
of northern Somalia receives as little as 50 to 150 millimeters. Cer- 
tain higher areas in the north, however, record more than 500 mil- 
limeters a year, as do some coastal sites. The southwest receives 
330 to 500 millimeters. Generally, rainfall takes the form of show- 
ers or localized torrential rains and is extremely variable. 

Mean daily maximum temperatures throughout the country 
range from 30°C to 40°C, except at higher elevations and along 
the Indian Ocean coast. Mean daily minimum temperatures vary 
from 20°C to more than 30°C. Northern Somalia experiences the 
greatest temperature extremes, with readings ranging from below 
freezing in the highlands in December to more than 45 °C in July 
in the coastal plain skirting the Gulf of Aden. The north's relative 
humidity ranges from about 40 percent in midafternoon to 85 per- 
cent at night, varying somewhat with the season. During the colder 
months, December to February, visibility at higher elevations is 
often restricted by fog. 

Temperatures in the south are less extreme, ranging from about 
20°C to 40°C. The hottest months are February through April. 
Coastal readings are usually five to ten degrees cooler than those 
inland. The coastal zone's relative humidity usually remains about 
70 percent even during the dry seasons. 

Terrain, Vegetation, and Drainage 

Physiographically, Somalia is a land of limited contrast. In the 
north, a maritime plain parallels the Gulf of Aden coast, varying 
in width from roughly twelve kilometers in the west to as little as 
two kilometers in the east. Scrub-covered, semiarid, and general- 
ly drab, this plain, known as the guban (scrub land), is crossed by 
broad, shallow watercourses that are beds of dry sand except in 






I s 















The Society and Its Environment 

the rainy seasons. When the rains arrive, the vegetation, which 
is a combination of low bushes and grass clumps, is quickly renewed, 
and for a time the guban provides some grazing for nomad livestock. 

Inland from the gulf coast, the plain rises to the precipitous 
northward-facing cliffs of the dissected highlands. These form the 
rugged Karkaar mountain ranges that extend from the northwestern 
border with Ethiopia eastward to the tip of the Horn of Africa, 
where they end in sheer cliffs at Caseyr. The general elevation along 
the crest of these mountains averages about 1,800 meters above 
sea level south of the port town of Berbera, and eastward from that 
area it continues at 1,800 to 2,100 meters almost to Caseyr. The 
country's highest point, Shimber Berris, which rises to 2,407 meters, 
is located near the town of Erigavo. 

Southward the mountains descend, often in scarped ledges, to 
an elevated plateau devoid of perennial rivers. This region of broken 
mountain terrain, shallow plateau valleys, and usually dry water- 
courses is known to the Somalis as the Ogo. 

In the Ogo's especially arid eastern part, the plateau — broken 
by several isolated mountain ranges — gradually slopes toward the 
Indian Ocean and in central Somalia constitutes the Mudug Plain. 
A major feature of this eastern section is the long and broad Nugaal 
Valley, with its extensive network of intermittent seasonal water- 
courses. The eastern area's population consists mainly of pastoral 
nomads. In a zone of low and erratic rainfall, this region was a 
major disaster area during the great drought of 1974 and early 1975. 

The western part of the Ogo plateau region is crossed by numer- 
ous shallow valleys and dry watercourses. Annual rainfall is great- 
er than in the east, and there are flat areas of arable land that provide 
a home for dryland cultivators. Most important, the western area 
has permanent wells to which the predominantly nomadic popu- 
lation returns during the dry seasons. The western plateau slopes 
gently southward and merges imperceptibly into an area known 
as the Haud, a broad, undulating terrain that constitutes some of 
the best grazing lands for Somali nomads, despite the lack of ap- 
preciable rainfall more than half the year. Enhancing the value of 
the Haud are the natural depressions that during periods of rain 
become temporary lakes and ponds. 

The Haud zone continues for more than sixty kilometers into 
Ethiopia, and the vast Somali Plateau, which lies between the north- 
ern Somali mountains and the highlands of southeast Ethiopia, ex- 
tends south and eastward through Ethiopia into central and 
southwest Somalia. The portion of the Haud lying within Ethio- 
pia was the subject of an agreement made during the colonial era 
permitting nomads from British Somaliland to pasture their herds 


Somalia: A Country Study 

there. After Somali independence in 1960, it became the subject 
of Somali claims and a source of considerable regional strife (see 
Pan-Somalism, ch. 1). 

Southwestern Somalia is dominated by the country's only two 
permanent rivers, the Jubba and the Shabeelle. With their sources 
in the Ethiopian highlands, these rivers flow in a generally southerly 
direction, cutting wide valleys in the Somali Plateau as it descends 
toward the sea; the plateau's elevation falls off rapidly in this area. 
The adjacent coastal zone, which includes the lower reaches of the 
rivers and extends from the Mudug Plain to the Kenyan border, 
averages 180 meters above sea level. 

The Jubba River enters the Indian Ocean at Chisimayu. 
Although the Shabeelle River at one time apparently also reached 
the sea near Merca, its course is thought to have changed in pre- 
historic times. The Shabeelle now turns southwestward near Bal- 
cad (about thirty kilometers north of Mogadishu) and parallels the 
coast for more than eighty-five kilometers. The river is perennial 
only to a point southwest of Mogadishu; thereafter it consists of 
swampy areas and dry reaches and is finally lost in the sand east 
of Jilib, not far from the Jubba River. During the flood seasons, 
the Shabeelle River may fill its bed to a point near Jilib and occa- 
sionally may even break through to the Jubba River farther south. 
Favorable rainfall and soil conditions make the entire riverine region 
a fertile agricultural area and the center of the country's largest 
sedentary population. 

In most of northern, northeastern, and north-central Somalia, 
where rainfall is low, the vegetation consists of scattered low trees, 
including various acacias, and widely scattered patches of grass. 
This vegetation gives way to a combination of low bushes and grass 
clumps in the highly arid areas of the northeast and along the Gulf 
of Aden. 

As elevations and rainfall increase in the maritime ranges of the 
north, the vegetation becomes denser. Aloes are common, and on 
the higher plateau areas of the Ogo are woodlands. At a few places 
above 1,500 meters, the remnants of juniper forests (protected by 
the state) and areas of candelabra euphorbia (a chandelier-type cac- 
tus) occur. In the more arid highlands of the northeast, boswellia 
and commiphora trees are sources, respectively, of the frankincense 
and myrrh for which Somalia has been known since ancient times. 

A broad plateau encompassing the northern city of Hargeysa, 
which receives comparatively heavy rainfall, is covered naturally 
by woodland (much of which has been degraded by overgrazing) 
and in places by extensive grasslands. Parts of this area have been 
under cultivation since the 1930s, producing sorghum and corn; 


Rugged terrain in the Karkaar Mountains of northern Somalia 
Mountains west of Mogadishu, midway toward Luuq 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

in the 1990s it constituted the only significant region of sedentary 
cultivation outside southwestern Somalia. 

The Haud south of Hargeysa is covered mostly by a semiarid 
woodland of scattered trees, mainly acacias, underlain by grasses 
that include species especially favored by livestock as forage. As 
the Haud merges into the Mudug Plain in central Somalia, the 
aridity increases and the vegetation takes on a subdesert charac- 
ter. Farther southward the terrain gradually changes to semiarid 
woodlands and grasslands as the annual precipitation increases. 

The region encompassing the Shabeelle and Jubba rivers is rela- 
tively well watered and constitutes the country's most arable zone. 
The lowland between the rivers supports rich pasturage. It features 
arid to subarid savanna, open woodland, and thickets that include 
frequently abundant underlying grasses. There are areas of grass- 
land, and in the far southwest, near the Kenyan border, some dry 
evergreen forests are found. 

Along the Indian Ocean from Mereeg, about 150 kilometers 
northeast of Mogadishu, southwestward to near Chisimayu lies a 
stretch of coastal sand dunes. This area is covered with scattered 
scrub and grass clumps where rainfall is sufficient. Overgrazing, 
particularly in the area between Mogadishu and Chisimayu, has 
resulted in the destruction of the protective vegetation cover and 
the gradual movement of the once- stationary dunes inland. Begin- 
ning in the early 1970s, efforts were made to stabilize these dunes 
by replanting. 

Other vegetation includes plants and grasses found in the swamps 
into which the Shabeelle River empties most of the year and in 
other large swamps in the course of the lower Jubba River. Man- 
grove forests are found at points along the coast, particularly from 
Chisimayu to near the Kenyan border. Uncontrolled exploitation 
appears to have caused some damage to forests in that area. Other 
mangrove forests are located near Mogadishu and at a number of 
places along the northeastern and northern coasts. 

Population and Settlement Patterns 

Somalia's first national census was taken in February 1975, and 
as of mid- 1992 no further census had been conducted. In the ab- 
sence of independent verification, the reliability of the 1975 count 
has been questioned because those conducting it may have over- 
stated the size of their own clans and lineage groups to augment 
their allocations of political and economic resources. The census 
nonetheless included a complete enumeration in all urban and set- 
tled rural areas and a sample enumeration of the nomadic popula- 
tion. In the latter case, the sampling units were chiefly watering 


Mangrove swamp near Chisimayu; in rainy season, 
dense roots protect coastal area from erosion 
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 

points. Preliminary results of that census were made public as part 
of the Three-Year Plan, 1979-81, issued by the Ministry of Na- 
tional Planning in existence at the time. (Because the Somali state 
had disintegrated and the government's physical infrastructure had 
been destroyed, no ministry of planning, or indeed any other 
government ministry, existed in mid- 1992.) Somali officials sug- 
gested that the 1975 census undercounted the nomadic population 
substantially, in part because the count took place during one of 
the worst droughts in Somalia's recorded history, a time when many 
people were moving in search of food and water. 

The total population according to the 1975 census was 3.3 mil- 
lion. The United Nations (UN) estimated Somalia's population 
in mid- 1991 at nearly 7.7 million. Not included were numerous 
refugees who had fled from the Ogaden (Ogaadeen) in Ethiopia 
to Somalia beginning in the mid-1970s (see Refugees, this ch.). 

The Ministry of National Planning' s preliminary census data 
distinguished three main categories of residents: nomads, settled 
farmers, and persons in nonagricultural occupations. Settled farmers 
lived in permanent settlements outside the national, regional, and 
district capitals, although some of these were in fact pastoralists, 
and others might have been craftsmen and small traders. Those 


Somalia: A Country Study 

living in urban centers were defined as nonagricultural regardless 
of their occupations. In 1975 nomads constituted nearly 59 per- 
cent of the population, settled persons nearly 22 percent, and 
nonagricultural persons more than 19 percent. Of the population 
categorized as nomads, about 30 percent were considered semi- 
nomadic because of their relatively permanent settlements and 
shorter range of seasonal migration. 

Various segments of the population apparently increased at differ- 
ent rates. The nomadic population grew at less than 2 percent a 
year, and the seminomadic, fully settled rural and urban popula- 
tions (in that order) at higher rates — well over 2.5 percent in the 
case of the urban population. These varied rates of growth cou- 
pled with increasing urbanization and the efforts, even if of limit- 
ed success, to settle nomads as cultivators or fishermen were likely 
to diminish the proportion of nomads in the population. 

The 1975 census did not indicate the composition of the popu- 
lation by age and sex. Estimates suggested, however, that more 
than 45 percent of the total was under fifteen years of age, only 
about 2 percent was over sixty- five years, and that there were more 
males than females among the nomadic population and propor- 
tionately fewer males in urban areas. 

Population densities varied widely. The areas of greatest rural 
density were the settled zones adjacent to the Jubba and Shabeelle 
rivers, a few places between them, and several small areas in the 
northern highlands. The most lightly populated zones (fewer than 
six persons per square kilometer) were in northeastern and cen- 
tral Somalia, but there were some sparsely populated areas in the 
far southwest along the Kenyan border. 

The nomadic and seminomadic segments of the population tradi- 
tionally engage in cyclical migrations related to the seasons, par- 
ticularly in northern and northeastern Somalia. During the dry 
season, the nomads of the Ogo highlands and plateau areas in the 
north and the Nugaal Valley in the northeast generally congregate 
in villages or large encampments at permanent wells or other reliable 
sources of water. When the rains come, the nomads scatter with 
their herds throughout the vast expanse of the Haud, where they 
live in dispersed small encampments during the wet season, or as 
long as animal forage and water last. When these resources are 
depleted, the area empties as the nomads return to their home areas. 
In most cases, adult men and women and their children remain 
with the sheep, goats, burden camels, and, occasionally, cattle. 
Grazing camels are herded at some distance by boys and young 
unmarried men. 


The Society and Its Environment 

A nomadic population also inhabits the southwest between the 
Jubba River and the Kenyan border. Little is known about the 
migratory patterns or dispersal of these peoples. 

Somalia's best arable lands lie along the Jubba and Shabeelle 
rivers and in the interriverine area. Most of the sedentary rural 
population resides in the area in permanent agricultural villages 
and settlements. Nomads are also found in this area, but many 
pastoralists engage part-time in farming, and the range of seasonal 
migrations is more restricted. After the spring rains begin, herd- 
ers move from the river edge into the interior. They return to the 
rivers in the dry season (hagaa), but move again to the interior in 
October and November if the second rainy season (day) permits. 
They then retreat to the rivers until the next spring rains. The seden- 
tary population was augmented in the mid-1970s by the arrival 
of more than 100,000 nomads who came from the drought- stricken 
north and northeast to take up agricultural occupations in the south- 
west. However, the 1980s saw some Somalis return to nomadism; 
data on the extent of this reverse movement remain unavailable. 

The locations of many towns appear to have been determined 
by trade factors. The present-day major ports, which range from 
Chisimayu and Mogadishu in the southwest to Berbera and Say- 
lac in the far northwest, were founded from the eighth to the tenth 
centuries A.D. by Arab and Persian immigrants. They became 
centers of commerce with the interior, a function they continued 
to perform in the 1990s, although some towns, such as Saylac, had 
declined because of the diminution of the dhow trade and repeat- 
ed Ethiopian raids. Unlike in other areas of coastal Africa, impor- 
tant fishing ports failed to develop despite the substantial piscine 
resources of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. This failure 
appears to reflect the centuries-old Somali aversion to eating fish 
and the absence of any sizable inland market. Some of the towns 
south of Mogadishu have long been sites of non- Somali fishing com- 
munities, however. The fisheries' potential and the need to expand 
food production, coupled with the problem of finding occupations 
for nomads ruined by the 1974-75 drought, resulted in govern- 
ment incentives to nomad families to settle permanently in fishing 
cooperatives; about 15,000 nomads were reported established in 
such cooperatives in late 1975. 

Present-day inland trading centers in otherwise sparsely popu- 
lated areas began their existence as caravan crossing points or as 
regular stopping places along caravan routes. In some cases, the 
ready availability of water throughout the year led to the growth 
of substantial settlements providing market and service facilities 


Somalia: A Country Study 

to nomadic populations. One such settlement is Galcaio, an oasis 
in the Mudug Plain that has permanent wells. 

The distribution of towns and villages in the agricultural areas 
of the Jubba and Shabeelle rivers is related in part to the develop- 
ment of market centers by the sedentary population. But the ori- 
gin of a considerable number of such settlements derives from the 
founding of agricultural religious communities (jamaat; sing., jamad) 
by various Islamic brotherhoods during the nineteenth century. 
An example is the large town of Baardheere, on the Jubba River 
in the Gedo Region, which evolved from ajamaa founded in 1819 
(see Religious Orders and the Cult of the Saints, this ch.). Har- 
geysa, the largest town in northern Somalia, also started as a reli- 
gious community in the second half of the nineteenth century. 
However, growth into the country's second biggest city was stimu- 
lated mainly by its selection in 1942 as the administrative center 
for British Somaliland. In 1988 Hargeysa was virtually destroyed 
by troops loyal to Siad Barre in the course of putting down the 
Isaaq insurrection. 

After the establishment of a number of new regions (for a total 
of sixteen as of early 1992, including Mogadishu) and districts (sec- 
ond-order administrative areas — sixty-nine as of 1989 plus fifteen 
in the capital region), the government defined towns to include all 
regional and district headquarters regardless of size. (When the 
civil war broke out in 1991 , the regional administrative system was 
nullified and replaced by one based on regional clan groups.) Also 
defined as towns were all other communities having populations 
of 2,000 or more. Some administrative headquarters were much 
smaller than that. Data on the number of communities specified 
as urban in the 1975 census were not available except for the region 
of Mogadishu. At that time, the capital had 380,000 residents, 
slightly more than 52 percent of all persons in the category of 
"nonagricultural" (taken to be largely urban). Only three other 
regions — Woqooyi Galbeed, Shabeellaha Hoose, and the Bay — 
had urban populations constituting 7 to 9 percent of the total ur- 
ban population in 1975. The sole town of importance in Woqooyi 
Galbeed Region at that time was Hargeysa. Berbera was much 
smaller, but as a port on the Gulf of Aden it had the potential to 
grow considerably. The chief town in Shabeellaha Hoose Region 
was Merca, which was of some importance as a port. There were 
several other port towns, such as Baraawe, and some inland com- 
munities that served as sites for light manufacturing or food process- 
ing. In the Bay Region, the major towns, Baidoa and Buurhakaba, 
were located in relatively densely settled agricultural areas. There 
were a few important towns in other regions: the port of Chisimayu 


The Society and Its Environment 

in Jubbada Hoose and Dujuuma in the agricultural area of Jub- 
bada Dhexe. 

The Segmentary Social Order 

Ethnic Somalis are united by language, culture, devotion to Is- 
lam, and to a common ancestor, Samaale, or Samaal. Genealogi- 
cal ties have also provided the basis on which divisions among 
Somalis have occurred, division historically being more common 
than unity. 

The overwhelming majority of Somalis trace their genealogical 
origin to the mythical founding father, Samaale or Samaal. Even 
those clan-families, such as the Digil and Rahanwayn in southern 
Somalia, whose members in many cases do not trace their lineage 
directly to Samaal, readily identify themselves as Somalis, there- 
by accepting the primacy of Samaal as the forebear of the Somali 
people. By language, traditions, and way of life, the Somalis share 
kinship with other members of the Eastern Cushitic groups of the 
Horn of Africa, including the Oromo, who constitute roughly 50 
percent of the population of Ethiopia; the Afar (Danakil), who strad- 
dle the Great Rift Valley between Ethiopia and Djibouti; the Beja 
tribes of eastern Sudan; and the Reendille (Rendilli) and Boni 
(Aweera) peoples of northeastern Kenya (see The Somalis, Their 
Origins, Migrations, and Settlement, ch. 1). 

Genealogy constitutes the heart of the Somali social system. It 
is the basis of the collective Somali inclination toward internal 
fission and internecine conflict, as well as of the Somalis' sense 
of being distinct — a consciousness of otherness that borders on 

The major branches of the Somali lineage system are four over- 
whelmingly pastoral nomadic clan-families (the Dir, Daarood, 
Isaaq, and Hawiye, who are collectively denoted by the appella- 
tion of Samaal), and two agricultural ones (the Digil and Rahan- 
wayn) (see fig. 4). As Israeli political scientist Saadia Touval noted 
in his brief study of Somali nationalism, these six clan-families cor- 
respond to the "Old Testament version of the tribal segmentation 
of the children of Israel." Like the children of Israel, the children 
of Samaal, with minor exceptions, are politically acephalous and 
prone to internal schism and factionalism. Although the modern 
Somali state, which is largely a creation of European colonialism, 
tried vainly to exercise a measure of centralized authority through 
the armed forces and the civilian bureaucracy, most Somalis con- 
tinued to give greater political and emotional allegiance to their 
lineages. In 1992 the centralized state constructed on the Somali 
Peninsula had all but disintegrated into its constituent lineages and 


Somalia: A Country Study 



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The Society and Its Environment 

clans, whose internecine wars were drenching the country in 

The Dir, Daarood, Isaaq, and Hawiye, which together make 
up the Samaal clans, constitute roughly 70 percent of the popula- 
tion. Most Samaal clans are widely distributed pastoralists, although 
a growing minority of them are settled cultivators. The Digil and 
Rahanwayn constitute about 20 percent of the population. They 
are settled in the riverine regions of southern Somalia and rely on 
a mixed economy of cattle and camel husbandry and cultivation. 

Clan-families, too large and scattered for practical cooperation, 
in the past had no real political or economic functions. However, 
with the renewal and intensification of clan feuding in the wake 
of Siad Barre's fall from power in early 1991, the clan-families as- 
sumed crucial significance as nascent political parties pitted against 
one another along tribal lines in a disastrous civil war (see Lin- 
eage Segmentation and the Somali Civil War, this ch.). Member- 
ship in clan-families, primary lineages, and clans was traced through 
males from a common male ancestor. 

Descent as the basis of group formation and loyalty was modi- 
fied, but not overridden, by the principle of heer. Membership in 
the same clan or lineage did not automatically entail certain rights 
and obligations. These were explicitly the subject of treaties or con- 
tracts. Thus, some clans in a clan-family might unite for political 
and military purposes, and some lineages within a clan might as- 
sociate to pay and receive blood compensation in cases of homi- 
cide, injury, and other offenses. These alignments had a kinship 
base in that members often descended from a particular wife of 
a common ancestor, but units formed by contract or treaty could 
be dissolved and new ones formed. 

The traditional social structure was characterized by competi- 
tion and conflict among descent groups. Among the Samaal, the 
search for pasture and water drove clans and lineages physically 
apart or pitted them against each other. The Digil and Rahanwayn 
(cultivators of the south) had a history of warfare over trade and 
religious matters and of fighting the encroachments of camel-herding 

Whatever their common origin, the Samaal and the Digil and 
Rahanwayn evolved differently as they adapted to different physi- 
cal environments. With some exceptions, the Samaal lived in areas 
that supported a pastoralism based mainly on camels, sheep, and 
goats. The Digil and Rahanwayn lived in the area between the 
rivers where they raised cattle and came to enslave the non-Somali 
cultivators who were there when they arrived. After the demise 


Somalia: A Country Study 

of slavery in the 1920s, the Digil and Rahanwayn themselves 
undertook cultivation. 

The Samaal considered themselves superior to settled Somalis. 
Lineage remained the focal point of loyalty for pastoral nomads. 
The Digil and Rahanwayn developed a heterogeneous society that 
accorded status to different groups on the basis of origin and oc- 
cupation. Group cohesion developed a territorial dimension among 
the settled agriculturists. 

Relations among and within groups underwent changes during 
the colonial era and after independence. Armed conflict among de- 
scent groups (or in the south, territorial units) became rare during 
the two decades (the 1960s and 1970s) following independence. 
However, in the 1980s and early 1990s, as President Siad Barre 
incited and inflamed clan rivalries to divert public attention from 
the problems of his increasingly unpopular regime, Somali society 
began to witness an unprecedented outbreak of inter- and intra- 
clan conflicts. The basic modes of social organization and relations 
persisted, however, particularly among the pastoral nomads. 
Moreover, national politics were often operated in terms of rela- 
tionships among segments of various kinds. 

Several thousand persons, including some ethnic Somalis, were 
integrated into traditional society but were not included in the six 
clan-families. Among them were Somali clans descended from an- 
cestors predating or otherwise missing from the genealogies of the 
six clan-families. Others were lineages of relatively unmixed Arab 
or Persian descent, often much inbred; most members of these 
groups lived in the coastal towns. Such lineages or communities 
had varying relationships with local Somalis. Some were clients 
subordinate to Somali groups; others were independent entities in 
the larger towns. A second category consisted of the so-called habash, 
or adoon, cultivators or hunters of pre-Somali origin who lived 
among the Rahanwayn and Digil in the interriverine area. A third 
category consisted of occupationally specialized caste-like groups, 
members of which were attached to Somali lineages or clans. Fi- 
nally, until the last were freed in the 1920s, there was a small num- 
ber of slaves attached to both pastoral and sedentary Somali groups, 
but of greater economic importance among the latter. 


Among the Samaal clans were the largest political units, most 
of which had heads known as soldaan (sultan) or bokor (concept de- 
rived from a belt binding people together). With few exceptions, 
a nomadic clan head's functions were honorary and ceremonial. 
The number and size of clans within a clan-family varied; the 


The Society and Its Environment 

average clan in the twentieth century numbered about 100,000 peo- 
ple. Clans controlled a given territory, essentially defined by the 
circuit of nomadic migration but having unspecified boundaries, 
so that the territories of neighboring clans tended to overlap. 

A Samaal clan kept count of the generations between living mem- 
bers of the group and the ancestor for whom it was named; the 
greater the number of generations (which often implied substan- 
tial internal segmentation into subclans or lineages), the greater 
the clan's prestige. Some ancient clans dwindled and found it neces- 
sary to attach themselves to other clans of the same or another clan- 
family. Similarly, lineages detached from the main body of their 
clan would ally with the clan in whose territory they were then 

Clans living in contiguous territories sometimes joined in con- 
federacies often marked by internal subgroupings. The Majeer- 
teen clan, for example, was part of the Kombe-Harti confederacy, 
which was in turn part of the Kablalla. A confederacy consisted 
of related clans, but the decision to enter into a confederacy would 
be the consequence of history rather than genealogy. The purposes 
of the confederacy would be enumerated in a treaty or contract, 
often set down by a religious figure in an early Arabic-script ver- 
sion of Somali. 

Clans were segmented into primary lineages whose genealogical 
depth ranged from twelve to fourteen generations. These lin- 
eages were in turn segmented into secondary and sometimes ter- 
tiary lineages. The process of internal segmentation was continuous. 
The political (and sometimes the economic) relevance of a clan or 
lineage of a given genealogical depth varied with the context. Somali 
lacked specific terms for different levels of segmentation. Accord- 
ing to anthropologist I.M. Lewis, an authority on pastoral Soma- 
lis, there are three "points of unity and division at which 
political solidarity most frequently emerges . . . those of clan, 
primary lineage group, and d&jya-paying group." 

The ^jfl-paying (see Glossary) group was an alliance formed by 
related lineages within a clan by means of a contract, traditionally 
oral but filed in written form with district officials during the colonial 
era, at least in British Somaliland. The contract explicitly stated 
the rights and duties of members of the group with respect to the 
burdens of payment and the distribution of receipts of blood com- 
pensation, that is, distribution of the camels or money received, 
when the parties were members of the same or different ^a-paying 
groups. In the case of a homicide, the lineages of the group shared 
in giving or receiving a specified portion of the compensation. A 
smaller but still substantial portion (xhejiffo) was given or received 


Somalia: A Country Study 

by the relatively close kin of the killer or the deceased, that is, by 
an agnatic group descended from a common ancestor three or four 
generations back. In the case of offenses requiring the payment 
of a smaller compensation, sharing still occurred within the diya- 
paying group, but in minor cases thejY^o-paying group alone might 
be involved. 

The lineages constituting a ^jy<2-paying group were often second- 
ary; that is, the ancestors of each were fewer than the twelve to 
fourteen characteristic of a primary lineage. If a group with a re- 
mote ancestor lacked the numbers to constitute its own <$ya-paying 
group, it might join with another such group to form one, thus 
minimizing the financial burden. Moreover, the ultimate traditional 
sanction was armed conflict, and here again lack of manpower was 
clearly a liability. 

Both afzj^-paying and jiffo-paying groups were important units 
of social and economic organization aside from their stated pur- 
pose. They functioned as mutual aid groups in times of economic 
hardship or other emergencies. They established and enforced regu- 
lations. In 1964 it was estimated that more than 1 ,000 such groups 
existed in the republic. Among the nomads, membership ranged 
from 300 to more than 5,000 men and among the sedentary Somalis 
from 5,000 to 100,000 men. 

The political and economic business of any functioning segment 
in Samaal society was managed by a council called a shir, which 
included all adult males in the group. Each member might speak 
and take part in deliberation. Age and seniority of lineage took 
precedence in that an older man or one from an older lineage would 
customarily be asked to speak before others did, but the opinions 
of a persuasive speaker, whatever his seniority, would be given add- 
ed weight. A wealthy herder might also have a greater say. The 
term oday (elder) could be applied to any adult male, but those with 
more prestige and experience might be asked to arbitrate disputes 
over a wide area and act as ad hoc leaders in political matters. 

In traditional society, most Samaal men lived as warriors and 
herders; a warrior (waranle — see Glossary) considered his vocation 
nobler than any other except the religious life. A religious person 
(wadad; pi., wadaddo — see Glossary) was considered the equal of 
a warrior, but few Samaal committed themselves to a religious life. 
Many who did so retained their ties to clan and lineage, although 
in principle they were supposed to avoid partisanship and armed 
conflict. This rule did not pertain to jihad or religious warfare. A 
few wadaddo settled in religious communities. 

Cultivating groups of Samaal origin resided in various places. 
These groups, which also kept livestock, were accepted as fellow 


The Society and Its Environment 

Samaal by the pastoralists but were considered to have lost pres- 
tige, even if they had gained economically. Some Samaal attached 
themselves as cultivating clients to stockraising Digil or Rahan- 
wayn in the riverine region; the Samaal usually ended such rela- 
tionships when they could resume their pastoral activities or when 
the economic advantages of cultivation diminished. The lineage 
pattern remained intact among Samaal cultivators. 

Digil and Rahanwayn 

Some texts refer to these two mainly agriculturist clans of Digil 
and Rahanwayn as Sab. However, members of the Digil and Ra- 
hanwayn and most Somalis consider the appellation Sab derogato- 
ry. Used as a common noun meaning "ignoble," the term sab was 
applied by the Samaal to groups that pursued certain disdained 
occupations. The Samaal felt that the Sab had lowered themselves 
by their reliance on agriculture and their readiness to assimilate 
foreign elements into their clans. Traditionally, the Rahanwayn 
are considered a Digil offshoot that became larger than the parent 

The social structure of the Sab resembled that of the Samaal in 
that it was based on descent groups. However, there were signifi- 
cant differences. Sab clans were confederations of lineages and in- 
cluded persons originating in all-Somali clan-families as well as 
assimilated peoples. They came into being through a pact between 
the original founding segments, one of which, of Sab origin, was 
dominant; the name of the Sab segment became the name of the 
clan. By the twentieth century, the descendants of that dominant 
lineage often constituted only a relatively small core of the clan. 
The constituent lineages of the clan tended to have much shallow- 
er genealogies than the Samaal. Another important difference be- 
tween the nomadic Samaal societies and the sedentary Sab was in 
the significance accorded to territoriality. Sab clans lived within 
distinct borders. The entire clan (or large subclan) often constitut- 
ed the ^zjya-paying group in relation to other clans. The term reer, 
which the Samaal used in connection with descent, was used by 
the Sab with a place name, e.g. , reer barawa (children of Baraawe). 

Many clans were segmented into three subclans, called gember, 
although some, such as the Jiddu clans of the Digil clan-family, 
had only two subclans. Clans and subclans usually had single heads. 
In some cases, however, as among the Helai clans of the Rahan- 
wayn, there were no clan heads. Clan affairs were handled by lead- 
ing elders called gobweyn, who had assistants called gobyar. 

Clans and subclans were subdivided into lineages that reckoned 
three to five generations from ancestor to youngest member. The 


Somalia: A Country Study 

lineage traditionally owned land and water rights, which the head 
men distributed to individual lineage members. 

The manner in which Sab clans were formed led to recognized 
social inequalities, sometimes marked by differences in physical 
appearance owing to intermarriage within a stratum. Each stra- 
tum in a community consisted of one or more lineages. The basic 
distinction was between nobles (free clansmen) and habash, a group 
made up of pre-Somali cultivators and freed slaves (see Riverine 
and Coastal Peoples of Non-Somali Origin, this ch.). 

In some Rahanwayn and Digil communities, there was a fur- 
ther distinction between two sets of nobles. Within the Geledi clan 
(located in Afgooye, just north of Mogadishu, and its environs) 
studied by anthropologist Virginia Luling, the nobles were divided 
into Darkskin and Lightskin categories, designations correspond- 
ing to the physical appearance of their members. The Darkskins 
were descendants of the core or founding group of the Geledi; the 
Lightskins had a separate line of descent, claimed partly Arab ori- 
gin, and resembled the Arab populations of the old coastal towns. 
They had been completely Somalized, however. The wealth and 
position of the Lightskins were similar to that of the Darkskins, 
but the latter had precedence in certain traditional rites. 

Each lineage (which consisted of perhaps 300 to 400 persons), 
or Darkskins, Lightskins, and habash, had its own set of elders and 
constituted a diya-paying group vis-a-vis the others, but was bound 
in a common contract concerning rates of compensation for inju- 
ries. In principle, habash lineages had equal rights under this sys- 
tem. Each lineage controlled specific segments of the land and 
allocated to an individual male as much as his family could culti- 
vate. However, only the habash were subsistence cultivators in the 
nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. The nobles, whether 
Darkskins or Lightskins, cultivated much larger areas by means 
of slave labor and exported surpluses via the coastal ports to Arab 
lands. In the case of the Geledi, wealth accrued to the nobles and 
to the sultan not only from market cultivation but also from in- 
volvement in the slave trade and other enterprises, such as com- 
merce in ivory, cotton, and iron. The Geledi also raised cattle. 

The sultan of the Geledi (a member of the Darkskin stratum) 
had a political and religious role. He also wielded somewhat greater 
authority than the sultans of the Samaal clans, but this authority 
was by no means absolute. 

The sociopolitical organization and processes of the Geledi resem- 
bled those of many Digil and Rahanwayn communities. Not all 
such communities had a Lightskin component, and many were not 
located as auspiciously as the Geledi, for whom trade developed 


The Society and Its Environment 

as a major economic factor. Most, however, had slaves who worked 
the land of the nobles. 

The sedentary Somali communities in the coastal and interriver- 
ine areas, some of which were of Samaal origin, were more strongly 
affected by the advent of European colonization than the nomadic 
pastoralists were. Clans, and occasionally large lineages, came to 
have government chiefs appointed by colonial authorities, some- 
times where there had been no chiefs of any kind. For the Geledi, 
the most important such chief was the sultan. Whatever his ori- 
gin, the government-appointed chief was expected to be the inter- 
mediary between the colonial government and the people. 

The abolition of the slave trade and the outlawing of slavery by 
1920 changed not only the lives of the slaves but also the position 
of the nobles whose economic and political power depended on the 
slave economy. In Geledi areas and elsewhere, many slaves left 
to take up other land as subsistence cultivators. A few remained, 
and their descendants maintained a quasi-dependent relationship 
as clients of their former masters. By the second decade of the twen- 
tieth century, nobles were faced for the first time with having to 
cultivate their own land. None of the groups — nobles, habash, or 
ex-slaves — worked voluntarily for wages on the Italian plantations 
established at that time; colonial authorities usually made such labor 

Despite the radical social, political, and economic changes 
brought about by colonization, the nobles retained their superior 
position in Geledi (and probably in other Rahanwayn and Digil) 
communities. The nobles' status positioned them to profit from 
new income opportunities such as paid employment with the Italians 
or trade in the growing Afgooye market. They benefited from such 
business opportunities throughout the colonial period, as well as 
from educational and political opportunities, particularly during 
the trusteeship period (1950-60). Independence introduced still 
other changes to which the nobles responded (see Social Change, 
this ch.). 

Riverine and Coastal People of Non-Somali Origin 

Along the southern coast, in the valleys of the Jubba and 
Shabeelle rivers and in a few places between the rivers, live small 
groups — probably totaling less than 2 percent of the population — 
who differ culturally and physically from the Somalis. Some are 
descendants of pre-Somali inhabitants of the area who were able 
to resist absorption or enslavement by the Somalis. The ancestors 
of others were slaves who escaped to found their own communi- 
ties or were freed in the course of European antislavery activity 


Somalia: A Country Study 

in the nineteenth century. The Somali term for these people, par- 
ticularly the riverine and interriverine cultivators, is habash. 

The relations of the habash communities with neighboring Somali 
groups varied, but most have traditional attachments of some sort 
to a Somali lineage, and members of all but a few communities 
along the coast speak Somali as a first language. In earlier times, 
whereas some habash communities had considerable independence, 
in others habash were much like serfs cultivating land under the 
patronage of a Somali lineage. In such cases, however, it was un- 
derstood that habash could not be deprived of their land, and there 
was litde reason for the pastoral Somalis to do so. Somalis and habash 
did not intermarry; nor would a Somali eat a meal prepared by 
habash. As these restrictions suggest, Somalis — whether Samaal or 
Sab — considered the habash their inferiors. Nevertheless, the po- 
litical relationship of some habash groups to neighboring Somali 
groups was that of near-equals. 

The attachment of habash groups to sections of Somali society 
usually entailed the participation of the habash community in the 
diya-paying group of Somali lineages or clans. Like the Somali, 
all but a few habash had been converted to Islam, and some of them 
had become leaders of religious communities in the interriverine 

Most non-Somali peoples were primarily cultivators, but some, 
like the Eyle, also hunted, something the Somalis would not do. 
A few groups, including the Boni, remained primarily hunters into 
the twentieth century and were accordingly looked down on by the 
Somalis. By midcentury most of these peoples had turned to culti- 
vation, and some had moved into the towns and become laborers. 

Along the coast live the Bajuni and the Amarani. They are fisher- 
men, sailors, and merchants, derived from a mixture of coastal 
populations. Their ancestors included Arab or Persian settlers and 
seafaring peoples of India and the East Indies. Both the Bajuni and 
the Amarani speak dialects of Swahili. The Amarani, who were 
estimated to number fewer than 1,000 in the early 1990s, inhabit 
small fishing communities in and near Baraawe, Mogadishu, Mer- 
ca, and the inland town of Afgooye on the Shabeelle River. The 
Bajuni inhabit the East African coast and Bajun Islands near 
Chisimayu in a continuous strip from Chisimayu southward into 
Kenya as far as Lamu, and maintain scattered communities as far 
away as Mozambique. Both the Amarani and the Bajuni have lit- 
tle contact with outsiders except in towns. Partial geographical iso- 
lation and an active ethnic consciousness distinguished by 
differences in languages separate them from the Somalis. 


Design of village huts varies according to ethnic group. 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Specialized Occupational Groups 

Certain occupational groups such as hunters, leather-dressers, 
and smiths are known as sab (ignoble) among the Samaal and as 
bon (low caste) among the Sab. They resemble Somalis, but their 
ethnic origin is uncertain. Some authorities suggest — and group 
members believe — that they may be derived from the land's origi- 
nal population. They speak Somali, but also use local dialects. 

In the late 1950s, when the Somali population was estimated at 
2 million, the number of sab was estimated at more than 12,000, 
or less than 1 percent of the population. Of these, about three- 
quarters were of the midgaan (an appellation considered pejorative 
and ultimately legally forbidden) group whose men worked as bar- 
bers, circumcisers, and hunters. Less than a quarter of the total 
consisted of the Tumaal, who engaged chiefly in metalwork. The 
smallest group was the Yibir (Yahhar in the south), magicians called 
upon to make amulets for the newborn, bless Somali weddings, 
and act as soothsayers. In return for these services, they would be 
given gifts. 

Occupational groups had lineages, but these were not usually 
the foundation of ^a-paying groups before Somalia's indepen- 
dence. Except perhaps for the Yibir, who moved from one group 
of Somalis to another, families of occupational specialists were at- 
tached to Somali lineages, which acted as their patrons and claimed 
compensation on their behalf. By the end of the colonial period, 
change had begun to take place in the political, legal, and social 
status of these groups. 

Social Change 

Colonial domination had various effects, such as the formal abo- 
lition of slavery in the years preceding World War II, particularly 
in the interriverine area. The effects of Western rule had a greater 
impact on the social and economic orders in urban than in rural 
areas. After World War II, the institution of the trusteeship in the 
Italian-administered south and greater attention to education in 
the British-run north gradually led to further change (see British 
Military Administration; Trusteeship and Protectorate, ch. 1). 

The late colonial period and the first decade of independence 
saw the decline, in part legally enforced, of caste-like restrictions and 
impediments to the equality of habash and traditional occupational 
groups. In the south, although nobles were more likely to take ad- 
vantage of educational opportunities, habash increasingly did so. 

The growing importance of manual skills in the modern economy 
gave some occupational groups an economic, if not an immediate 


The Society and Its Environment 

social, advantage. For example, many Tumaal blacksmiths became 
mechanics and settled in towns. In southern port towns, carpenters, 
weavers, and other artisans formed guilds to protect their common 
interests. As skilled manual work became more available and so- 
cially acceptable, tolerance of members of the traditional groups 
increased to the point where some intermarriage occurred in the 
towns. In the rural areas, members of these groups formed their 
own ^zjya-paying units and in a few cases began to take part in the 
councils of the Somali lineages to which they remained attached. 

Somali leaders tried to eliminate the traditional disabilities of 
low-status groups. In early 1960, just before independence, the legis- 
lative assembly of the Italian trust territory abolished the status 
of client, that is, of habash dependent on Somalis for land and water 
rights. The law stated that Somali citizens could live and farm where 
they chose, independent of hereditary affiliation. Patron lineages 
in the riverine area resisted the change and retaliated against habash 
assertions of independence. They withheld customary farming and 
watering rights, excluded habash from diya-paying arrangements, 
and, in some cases, sought to oust them from the land they had 
farmed for generations as clients. Some habash brought cases in 
court, seeking to affirm their new rights, but initially many con- 
tinued to live under the old arrangements. Clientship appeared by 
the early 1990s to have diminished in fact as it had been abrogat- 
ed in law. 

Whereas some features of traditional stratification were eroded, 
new strata based on education and command of a foreign lan- 
guage — English or Italian — were forming in the late colonial peri- 
od (see Education, this ch.). With independence, a new elite arose 
as Somalis assumed the highest political and bureaucratic positions 
in national government. A subelite also emerged, consisting of per- 
sons with more modest educational qualifications who filled posts 
in local and regional government. In many cases, however, these 
government workers were the sons of men who had acquired a 
degree of wealth in nonprofessional activities such as landholding, 
trading, and herding, in part because the costs of secondary edu- 
cation in the colonial period could be met only by relatively af- 
fluent families. 

Two somewhat contradictory forces affected educated urban 
Somalis in the 1950s and 1960s. On the one hand, their income, 
education, and, above all, their literacy in a foreign language dis- 
tanced them from most other Somalis. On the other hand, lineage 
and clan remained important to most of this new elite. Thus de- 
scent groups acquired a new importance in national politics. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Locally, particularly in the larger towns, a combination of out- 
siders and area residents provided middle-level administration. One 
administrative component would consist of members of the national 
subelite brought in by the Somali government. Typically, this group 
would include the district commissioner, the judge, the secretary 
to the municipality, the staff of some of these officials, teachers, 
and the national police. Locally elected councillors would consti- 
tute the other administrative component. Some councillors were 
lineage heads; others were businessmen or had some other basis 
for their local status. Some of the local notables had sons serving 
as district officials but, by regulation, not in their home commu- 
nities. In Afgooye, a town in which the Geledi, the Wadaan (a group 
of the Hawiye clan-family), and others were represented, the local 
people and the subelite meshed well in the mid- and late 1960s, 
but Afgooye was not necessarily representative of local communi- 
ties in the riverine areas or elsewhere. 

Beginning in the nineteenth century, there was a growing dis- 
tinction between the bulk of nomadic Somalis and their kinsmen 
in the towns acting as middlemen in the livestock trade with Aden. 
Some of these townsmen became relatively wealthy and appeared 
to have more influence in council than their pastoralist relatives. 

By the 1960s, the demand for livestock in the Middle East had 
led to a great expansion of the livestock trade through the port of 
Berbera. Hargeysa and Burao became the points from which 150 
to 200 major livestock dealers and their agents — all but a few of 
them Somalis — operated. The nomadic producers directed their 
activity toward the commercial market, but the traders controlled 
the terms of trade, the feedlots, and some of the better grazing land. 
The government did not interfere because the livestock trade was 
too important as a source of foreign exchange, and because the 
traders marketed the animals efficiently. 

A new class of merchants thus emerged. They retained their con- 
nections with their lineages, but their interests differed from those 
of nomadic herders. If they were not educated, they tried to en- 
sure that their children attended school. 

After World War II and during the first decade of independence, 
the government stressed loyalty to the nation in place of loyalty 
to clan and lineage. The segmental system was seen as a divisive 
force, a source of nepotism and corruption; Somali politicians 
denounced it as "tribalism." A few Somalis rejected reference to 
clan and lineage. Nevertheless, persons meeting for the first time 
asked each other about their "ex-clans." Clan-families, once func- 
tionally unimportant, became increasingly significant as political 
rallying points, particularly as Somalia approached independence, 


The Society and Its Environment 

and they continued to be so in the 1990s. Clans and lineages re- 
mained the basic unit of society, serving many social, political, and 
economic functions regionally and locally. Although the Somali 
government opposed clans and lineages, it continued to appoint 
and pay lineage heads; lineages and clans were in fact voting blocs. 
Supreme Court decisions in 1962 and 1964 effected a major change 
in the role of the ^<2-paying group. The court's judgments for- 
bade collective payment for premeditated homicide. Payments for 
unpremeditated homicide and injury, however, were defined as 
compensation for a tort and were permitted. In this era, too, the 
diya-pay'mg group's responsibilities were extended to cover traffic 

The military leadership that took power in October 1969 in- 
troduced elements that constituted a radical break with the past. 
The new regime soon declared socialism as its frame of reference, 
in part as a means of obtaining Soviet aid (see Siad Barre and Scien- 
tific Socialism, ch. 1). The regime's basic ideas constituted a prag- 
matic version of Marxism adapted to local social and economic 
conditions. In this version, class struggle did not apply; the bour- 
geoisie was very small, composed of the new elite and subelite (chief- 
ly employed in government), a few traders, and a few profession- 
als. There was no significant proletariat, rural or urban, and no 
great Somali entrepreneurs or landholders. 

In its initial zest for change, the new regime focused on the di- 
visions in Somali society: the cleavages between clans and lineages, 
the settled and the nomadic, strong and weak pastoral lineages com- 
peting for grazing and water, patrons and clients in the cultivat- 
ing regions, and urban and rural dwellers. Attention was also given 
to the continuing disdain shown to those of low status. Under the 
new regime, clan and lineage affiliations were irrelevant to social 
relations, and the use of pejorative labels to describe specific groups 
thought inferior to Somalis were forbidden. All Somalis were asked 
to call each other jaalle (comrade), regardless of hereditary affiliation. 

Within limits the language of public discourse can be changed 
by fiat; much pejorative language was expurgated. Nevertheless, 
Somalis continued to learn each other's clan or lineage affiliation 
when it was useful to do so, and in private it was not uncommon 
for Somalis to refer to habash by the phrase "kinky hair." The term 
jaalle was widely used in the media and in a range of public situa- 
tions, but its use cannot be said to have reflected a change of per- 

The government also sought to change the function of the clans 
and lineages by abolishing the title of elder and replacing it with 
peacekeeper. Peacekeepers were the appointed spokesmen of what were 



Baobab tree, a welcome source of shade, with village huts nearby, near Luuq 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

officially regarded as local groups composed of either cultivators 
or pastoralists. In the early 1970s, collective responsibility (diya pay- 
ment) in any guise was abolished. 

Like most governments required to deal with a large nomadic 
population, the pre- and post-revolutionary regimes sought to find 
ways to setde the pastoralists, both to improve the pastoral economy 
and to facilitate control and services. Efforts to convert the nomads 
into ranchers made little progress, and in the early 1990s most herd- 
ers were still nomadic or seminomadic. The 1974 drought, however, 
drove many nomads to seek government help; by 1975 about 
105,000 had been resettled, 90,000 as cultivators and 15,000 as 
fishermen. Clans were deliberately mixed within the settlements, 
and the settlers were expected to deal as individuals with local coun- 
cils, committees, and courts, whose membership was also heter- 
ogeneous. Three years later, nearly 45 percent of the adult males 
had left the cultivating settlements, perhaps to resume herding. 
Most of those living in fishing communities remained. Neither the 
farmers nor the fishermen had been economically successful. 

The dismantling of the diya system; the institution of several po- 
litical and administrative offices intended to eliminate power vest- 
ed in lineages and clans; and the establishment of committees, 
councils, and cooperatives were all part of a policy to replace the 
descent group system as the primary means of organizing politi- 
cal, economic, and social life. Another manifestation of this policy 
was the banning in 1972 of weddings, burials, and religious rites 
organized on a lineage or clan basis. Wedding ceremonies were 
henceforth to be held at orientation centers or other public places. 
Money could not be collected from lineage members for the burial 
of a dead member, and the law forbade religious rites tied to local 

Most published observations refer to the continuing role of clan 
affiliation in national politics. The clan-family, which rose to con- 
siderable importance in Somali politics in the 1950s and 1960s, 
seemed in later years to lose its force as a rallying point. With the 
exception of northern Somalia's Isaaq people, the groups that ex- 
erted influence either for or against the regime were mostly of a 
single clan-family, the Daarood; President Mohammed Siad Barre's 
clan, Mareehaan; his mother's clan, Ogaden; his son-in-law's clan, 
Dulbahante; and the opposition clan, Majeerteen. 

Among the revolutionary regime's concerns was the status of 
women. After World War II, all political parties had established 
women's committees. In the Italian-administered south, women 
voted for the first time in the 1958 municipal elections; in the for- 
merly British north, women voted in the 1961 national referendum 


The Society and Its Environment 

on the constitution. Women's role in public affairs remained 
minimal, however, and little was done to change their legal situa- 
tion in the first decade of independence. 

Under Somali customary law, a woman was under the legal pro- 
tection of a male — her father or husband, or one of their kinsmen 
in the event of their deaths. In blood compensation, her life was 
usually valued at half that of a man. Islamic law permitted daugh- 
ters to inherit half of what was inherited by sons, but in Somali 
practice daughters ordinarily did not share in the inheritance of 
valued property (camels or land). Few girls attended school and 
even fewer continued beyond the elementary level. 

The revolutionary government quickly changed women's legal 
and political status. In principle, the question of diya payment for 
injuries to women became moot following the formal termination 
of the traditional system. Soon after the revolution, the govern- 
ment established committees to deal with women's affairs. Wom- 
en also began participating in government, committees, sports, and 
other social and cultural activities. In early 1975, Siad Barre an- 
nounced a decision by the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) 
and the Council of Ministers to give equal rights to women in several 
respects, including equal inheritance rights, a move that led to pro- 
tests by some Islamic leaders (see Challenges to the Regime, ch. 
1). Perhaps more important was the government's insistence that 
girls attend school, particularly beyond the elementary level. 

There were women in visible public posts in Somalia in 1990. 
Until the 1991 collapse of the state, 6 of the 171 elected members 
of the People's Assembly were women. Increasing numbers of fe- 
males were attending secondary school and university. Further 
progress for women was interrupted by the civil war and would 
have to await reconstruction of the country. 

The Siad Barre government also acted in the economic sphere, 
fostering various government agencies at the national, regional, 
and local levels. The regime initiated some enterprises and placed 
others under state control. Much productive and distributive en- 
terprise remained in private hands, however. 

In the rural areas, the government (beginning with colonial ad- 
ministrations) and large-scale private farmers had acquired much 
of the irrigated land. In the late 1970s, small-scale farmers had 
worked some of the irrigated land and much of the flood land, but 
by the mid-1980s much of the latter had been converted to con- 
trolled irrigation and had come under state control. For the most 
part, rain-fed land cultivation remained in the hands of tradition- 
al smallholders engaged in subsistence farming, some of whom 
earned the cash they needed by working on state farms. Most 


Somalia: A Country Study 

extensions of the irrigation system facilitated development of large 
state farms, rather than small farms. Some rural Somalis held no 
land and relied on wage labor on state farms and large private hold- 
ings (chiefly banana plantations) for their livelihood. 

Under Siad Barre's regime, animal husbandry remained primar- 
ily in the hands of individual pastoral Somalis. The chief change 
lay in the readiness of these pastoralists to sell their livestock in 
response to overseas demand. Marketing was in the hands of pri- 
vate traders who had accumulated enough capital to construct water 
storage units and invest in a transport fleet. In addition, a num- 
ber of traders had enclosed rangeland to produce hay, thereby ex- 
cluding herders who formerly had used the land. These traders 
benefited not only from the government construction of roads and 
other facilities but also from arrangements whereby their overseas 
earnings might be used in part to buy imports for domestic sale. 

Although income distinctions existed among Somalis in the pri- 
vate sphere, until 1991 those who combined comparatively large 
incomes with reasonable security were government employees such 
as administrators, technical personnel, and managers of state-owned 
enterprises. As under the first independence regime, administra- 
tors did not serve in their home territories and were therefore not 
linked by kinship to the more affluent Somalis in the local private 

Despite the otherwise fluid character of the system, the apex of 
the local hierarchy in a rural setded area consisted of the high-level 
(and to some extent the middle-level) representatives of the state. 
These included regional and local administrators, managers of state 
farms and agro-industries such as the sugar refinery at Giohar, tech- 
nicians, and highly skilled workers. Members of this group had 
relatively high incomes and could be reasonably sure of seeing that 
their children finished school, an important prerequisite to find- 
ing a good position. Because they often determined the flow of 
resources to the private sector, this elite group exercised economic 
power greater than that of wealthy merchants or large landholders 
whose income might be the same as, or larger than, theirs. 

At the bottom of the economic hierarchy were most rural Somalis, 
whether sedentary or nomadic. Living primarily by subsistence 
cropping or herding, they sold what they could. They had little 
contact with government and had been relatively untouched by de- 
velopment projects because of their isolation or insufficient govern- 
ment efforts to reach them. The farmers among them cultivated 
the poorest land and barely earned survival incomes with wage 
work. The pastoralists were most affected by the demands of a diffi- 
cult environment. Beginning in the late 1970s, limits on migration 


The Society and Its Environment 

resulting from hostile relations between Somalia and Ethiopia 
caused them additional hardship. 

As of the early 1990s, two other significant categories of rural 
residents were workers whose wages derived from state-owned or 
state- sponsored activities, and landholders or herders who operat- 
ed on a smaller scale than the plantation owners. Neither of these 
categories was homogeneous. Wage workers ranged from landless, 
and relatively unskilled agricultural workers whose income might 
be intermittent, to low-level workers in government agencies whose 
income was likely to be steadier and who might be heads of or mem- 
bers of families with subsistence farms or herds. Plots or herds 
owned by farmers or herders varied considerably in size and qual- 
ity, as did the income derived from them. Nevertheless, farmers 
and herders fared better than subsistence farmers. They joined 
cooperatives, took advantage of adult education, and participated 
in government programs that promised to enhance their incomes 
and the status of the next generation. Members of this category 
sent their children to school and arranged for some of them to seek 
more lucrative or prestigious employment in Mogadishu or other 
large towns. 

Rural petty traders did not clearly belong to any one economic 
category. Their incomes were not large, but equaled those of many 
lower-level wage workers and small-scale market-oriented farmers. 

Particularly in Mogadishu, the national capital and the largest 
town, another social pattern developed prior to the fall of the Siad 
Barre regime. Because of their incomes and the power they wield- 
ed, the highest party and government officials became the new apex 
of Somali society. In the early 1990s, the salaries and allowances 
of cabinet ministers were twice those of the next highest officials, 
the directors general of ministries, and nearly twenty-five times 
those of the lowest levels of the civil service. Below the ministers 
and directors general but well above the clerks of the bureaucracy 
were other high-level administrators, executives, and skilled per- 
sonnel. For instance, the manager of a large state-owned factory 
earned somewhat less than a minister but more than a director 
general. An unskilled laborer in a state farm earned less than the 
poorest-paid civil servant, but an unskilled worker in a factory 
earned a little more. Unskilled farm and factory workers and 
bottom-level government employees earned only 5 to 10 percent 
of a manager's salary. 

As in the rural areas, in the towns there were many people in- 
volved in the private sector. In some respects, merchants and traders 
had the deepest urban roots. Most of them were petty traders and 


Somalia: A Country Study 

shopkeepers whose income and status were closer to those of crafts- 
men than to those of the wealthier merchants. 

In the mid-1970s, a manufacturing census indicated that about 
6,000 enterprises in Somalia employed five or fewer persons, most 
of them probably family members. Unlike the larger, often foreign- 
owned industrial concerns, these had not been nationalized. 

Most urban dwellers were wage workers, but they had various 
skills, sources of employment, and incomes. For example, low- and 
middle-level clerks in the government bureaucracy and in state en- 
terprises earned no more (and sometimes less) than skilled arti- 
sans in state firms, and both earned perhaps twice as much as 
unskilled factory laborers. 

The situation of the urban population had changed radically by 
early 1992. Following the fall of Siad Barre, urban areas consisted 
largely of refugees or war victims who had migrated from the coun- 
tryside after the civil war began. 

Lineage Segmentation and the Somali Civil War 

From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, Somali society under- 
went a profound crisis — of identity, purpose, and direction — that 
threatened its very existence. As a result of its humiliating 1977-78 
defeat in the Ogaden War with Ethiopia, the revolutionary regime 
began to founder (see The Ogaden War: Performance and Impli- 
cations of Defeat, ch. 5). Confronted by armed opposition at home 
and diplomatic isolation abroad, the regime turned inward. Presi- 
dent Siad Barre, an expert in the art of dividing and ruling since 
his early days as an intelligence officer under the Italian fascists, 
skillfully harnessed the limited resources of the state. His aim was 
to pit clan against clan and to inflame clan passions in order to 
divert public attention from his increasingly vulnerable regime. 

A civil war began in the early 1980s with an armed uprising 
against the regime by Majeerteen clans (Daarood) in southern 
Somalia under the banner of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front 
(SSDF). Armed resistance spread to the Isaaq clans in the north. 
The regime's efforts to suppress Isaaq resistance resulted in May 
1988 in the virtual destruction of the urban centers of the north, 
most notably Hargeysa, until then the second largest city in the 
country, and Burao, a provincial capital. This action was followed 
in mid- 1989 by a massive uprising by the Hawiye clans in 
Mogadishu and adjacent regions under the leadership of the clan- 
based United Somali Congress (USC). In the escalating waves of 
government repression and resulting popular resistance that fol- 
lowed, Somali society exploded into violence and anarchy, and Siad 
Barre and his remaining supporters were forced to flee in early 1991 . 


The Society and Its Environment 

Instead of peace, Somalia experienced a power struggle among 
various clan- and region-based organizations: the Somali Nation- 
al Movement (SNM, I saaq- affiliated); the SSDF (Majeerteen); the 
Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM, Ogaden); the Somali Democrat- 
ic Alliance (SDA, Gadabursi); and the Somali Democratic Move- 
ment (SDM, Rahanwayn). Lineages and sublineages, fighting over 
the spoils of state, turned on one another in an orgy of internecine 
killings (see Somalia's Difficult Decade, 1980-90, ch. 1). The state 
collapsed, and Somali society splintered into its component clans. 

The collapse resulted from certain features of Somali lineage seg- 
mentation. Somali clan organization is an unstable, fragile system, 
characterized at all levels by shifting allegiances. This segmenta- 
tion goes down to the household level with the children of a man's 
two wives sometimes turning on one another on the basis of mater- 
nal lines. Power is exercised through temporary coalitions and 
ephemeral alliances between lineages. A given alliance fragments 
into competitive units as soon as the situation that necessitated it 
ceases to exist. In urban settings, for example, where relatively large 
economic and political stakes are contested, the whole population 
may be polarized into two opposing camps of clan alliances. To 
varying degrees, the poles of power in the politics of independent 
Somalia generally have tended to form around the Daarood clan- 
family and a confederacy of the Hawiye and the Isaaq clan-families. 

Two features of lineage segmentation require further comment. 
First, the system lacks a concept of individual culpability. When 
a man commits a homicide, for example, the guilt does not remain 
with him solely as an individual murderer as in most Western so- 
cieties; the crime is attributed to all of the murderer's kin, who 
become guilty in the eyes of the aggrieved party by reason of their 
blood connection with the perpetrator. Members of the aggrieved 
group then seek revenge, not just on the perpetrator, but on any 
member of his lineage they might chance upon. In the Somali lin- 
eage system, one literally may get away with murder because the 
actual killer may escape while an innocent kinsman of his may be 
killed. Second, the system is vulnerable to external manipulation 
by, for example, a head of state such as Siad Barre, who used the 
resources of the state to reward and punish entire clans collective- 
ly. This was the fate of the Isaaq and Majeerteen clans, which 
suffered grievous persecutions under Siad Barre' s regime. 

The meaning of segmentation is captured in an Arab beduin 
saying: My full brother and I against my half-brother, my brother 
and I against my father, my father's household against my uncle's 
household, our two households (my uncle's and mine) against the 
rest of the immediate kin, the immediate kin against non-immediate 


Somalia: A Country Study 

members of my clan, my clan against other clans, and, finally, my 
nation and I against the world. In a system of lineage segmenta- 
tion, one does not have a permanent enemy or a permanent 
friend — only a permanent context. Depending on the context, a 
man, a group of men, or even a state may be one's friends or foes. 
This fact partially explains why opposition Somalis did not hesi- 
tate to cross over to Ethiopia, the supposed quintessential foe of 
Somalis. Ethiopia was being treated by the Somali opposition as 
another clan for purposes of temporary alliance in the intermina- 
ble shifting coalitions of Somali pastoral clan politics. 

Lineage segmentation of the Somali variety thus inherently mili- 
tates against the evolution and endurance of a stable, centralized 
state. Although exacerbated by Siad Barre's exploitation of inter- 
clan rivalries, institutional instability is actually woven into the fabric 
of Somali society. The collapse of the Siad Barre regime in early 
1991 led to interclan civil war that was continuing in 1992. 

Religious Life 

Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims. (Less than 1 percent of eth- 
nic Somalis are Christians.) Loyalty to Islam reinforces distinc- 
tions that set Somalis apart from their immediate African neighbors, 
most of whom are either Christians (particularly the Amhara and 
others of Ethiopia) or adherents of indigenous African faiths. 

The Islamic ideal is a society organized to implement Muslim 
precepts in which no distinction exists between the secular and the 
religious spheres. Among Somalis this ideal had been approximated 
less fully in the north than among some groups in the settled regions 
of the south where religious leaders were at one time an integral 
part of the social and political structure. Among nomads, the ex- 
igencies of pastoral life gave greater weight to the warrior's role, 
and religious leaders were expected to remain aloof from political 

The role of religious functionaries began to shrink in the 1950s 
and 1 960s as some of their legal and educational powers and respon- 
sibilities were transferred to secular authorities. The position of 
religious leaders changed substantially after the 1969 revolution 
and the introduction of scientific socialism. Siad Barre insisted that 
his version of socialism was compatible with Quranic principles, 
and he condemned atheism. Religious leaders, however, were 
warned not to meddle in politics. 

The new government instituted legal changes that some religious 
figures saw as contrary to Islamic precepts. The regime reacted 
sharply to criticism, executing some of the protesters (see Islam 


Modern mosque in 

Mogadishu || |1 

R.W.S. Hudson 

Italian-built Roman 
Catholic cathedral 
in Mogadishu, 
subsequently gutted 
by bombs 
in the civil war 
R.W.S. Hudson 


Somalia: A Country Study 

in the Colonial Era and After, this ch.). Subsequently, religious 
leaders seemed to accommodate themselves to the government. 

The Tenets of Islam 

Founded in A.D. 622 when the Prophet Muhammad migrated 
with his followers from Mecca to Medina, Islam was probably 
brought to Somalia by early followers of the Prophet who sought 
refuge from persecution in Mecca. It is also possible that Islam 
came to Somalia through contacts with Persian and Arab merchants 
and seamen who founded settlements along the Somali coast 1,000 
or more years ago (see Coastal Towns, ch. 1). Before Islam spread 
among Somalis, quarrels over the succession to leadership had led 
to a split of the Islamic community into the Sunni (orthodox) and 
the Shia (from &hiat Ali, or partisans of Ali as the legitimate suc- 
cessor to Muhammad). The overwhelming majority of Somalis are 
Sunni Muslims. 

The word islam means "submission" and a Muslim is one who 
has submitted to God. The religion's basic tenet is stated in its creed: 
' 'There is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammad is His prophet. ' ' 
Recitation of the creed, daily prayers performed according to 
prescribed rules, fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan (when 
Muhammad received his initial revelations), almsgiving, and the 
pilgrimage to Mecca constitute the five pillars of the faith. Four 
of these duties may be modified by the situation in which believers 
find themselves. If they are ill, they may pray without prostrations 
and reduce the number of times they pray from the obligatory five 
to three. Muslims may be excused from fasting (going without food, 
drink, tobacco, and sexual relations from dawn until sunset) dur- 
ing a journey, but should compensate at a later time. Participa- 
tion in almsgiving and the pilgrimage depend upon one's ability 
to afford them. 

The basic teaching of Islam is embodied in the Quran, believed 
to have been given to Muhammad by God through the angel 
Gabriel. After Muhammad's death, his followers sought to regu- 
late their lives by his divinely inspired works; if the Quran did not 
cover a specific situation, they turned to the hadith (tradition, 
remembered actions, and sayings of the Prophet). Together, the 
Quran and the hadith form the sunna (custom or usage), a com- 
prehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of Muslims. 

Islamic sharia or religious law derives from the Quran, the hadith, 
and from a large body of interpretive commentary that developed 
in the early Islamic period. Several schools of legal thought arose, 
among them the Shafii school (named for Muhammad ibn Idris 
ash Shafii, 767-820), which is represented in Somalia. The sharia 


The Society and Its Environment 

covers several categories of behavior: obligatory actions, desirable 
or recommended actions, indifferent actions, objectionable but not 
forbidden actions, and prohibited actions. The five pillars of the 
faith fall in the first category; night-long prayer in the second, and 
many ordinary secular activities in the third. Divorce is in the ob- 
jectionable but permitted category, whereas adultery and other sin- 
ful acts are prohibited. 

Settled and nomadic Somalis conformed to Muslim requirements 
for ritual purity, such as washing after contact with unclean things. 
Some settled Somalis, particularly in communities founded by re- 
ligious orders, were more likely to observe Islamic requirements 
than were nomads. By the 1960s, ordinary settled Somalis were 
likely to pay less attention to religious observance. Devout Soma- 
lis, and others who valued the title of hajj (pilgrim) for its prestige, 
might make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but many more would visit 
the tombs of the local saints (see Religious Orders and the Cult 
of the Saints, this ch.). 

Religious Roles in Somali Islam 

In Islam, no priests mediate between the believer and God, but 
there are religious teachers, preachers, and mosque officials. Un- 
til the civil war in Somalia, religious training was most readily avail- 
able in urban centers or wherever mosques existed. There boys 
learned to memorize parts of the Quran. Some teachers traveled 
on foot from place to place with their novices, depending on the 
generosity of others for their living. The teachers served the com- 
munity by preaching, leading prayers, blessing the people and their 
livestock, counseling, arbitrating disputes, and performing mar- 
riages. Few teachers were deeply versed in Islam, and they rarely 
stayed with one lineage long enough to teach more than rudimen- 
tary religious principles. 

In the absence of a wandering teacher, nomads depended on a 
person associated with religious devotion, study, or leadership, 
called a wadad (pi., wadaddo). The wadaddo constituted the oldest 
stratum of literate people in Somalia. They functioned as basic 
teachers and local notaries as well as judges and authorities in reli- 
gious law. They were rarely theologians; some belonged to a reli- 
gious brotherhood, or to a lineage with a strong religious tradition. 
In the latter case, they were not necessarily trained, but were enti- 
tled to lead prayers and to perform ritual sacrifices at weddings, 
on special holidays, and during festivals held at the tombs of saints. 

Religious Orders and the Cult of the Saints 

Religious orders have played a significant role in Somali Islam. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

The rise of these orders {turuq; sing., tariqa, "way" or "path") was 
connected with the development of Sufism, a mystical current in 
Islam that began during the ninth and tenth centuries and reached 
its height during the twelfth and thirteenth. In Somalia Sufi or- 
ders appeared in towns during the fifteenth century and rapidly 
became a revitalizing force. Followers of Sufism seek a closer per- 
sonal relationship to God through special spiritual disciplines. Es- 
cape from self is facilitated by poverty, seclusion, and other forms 
of self-denial. Members of Sufi orders are commonly called der- 
vishes (from the Persian plural, daraawish; sing., darwish, one who 
gave up worldly concerns to dedicate himself to the service of God 
and community). Leaders of branches or congregations of these 
orders are given the Arabic title shaykh, a term usually reserved 
for these learned in Islam and rarely applied to ordinary wadaddo. 

Dervishes wander from place to place, teaching and begging. 
They are best known for their ceremonies, called dhikr (see Glos- 
sary), in which states of visionary ecstasy are induced by group- 
chanting of religious texts and by rhythmic gestures, dancing, and 
deep breathing. The object is to free oneself from the body and 
to be lifted into the presence of God. Dervishes have been impor- 
tant as founders of agricultural religious communities called jamaat 
(sing. , jamaa). A few of these were home to celibate men only, but 
usually the jamaat were inhabited by families. Most Somalis were 
nominal members of Sufi orders but few underwent the rigors of 
devotion to the religious life, even for a short time. 

Three Sufi orders were prominent in Somalia. In order of their 
introduction into the country, they were the Qadiriyah, the 
Ahmadiyah-Idrisiyah, and the Salihiyah. The Rifaiyah, an offshoot 
of the Qadiriyah, was represented mainly among Arabs resident 
in Mogadishu. 

The Qadiriyah, the oldest order in Islam, was founded in Bagh- 
dad by Abd al Qadir al Jilani in 1166 and introduced into Harer 
(Ethiopia) in the fifteenth century. During the eighteenth centu- 
ry, it was spread among the Oromo and Somalis of Ethiopia, often 
under the leadership of Somali shaykhs. Its earliest known advo- 
cate in northern Somalia was Shaykh Abd ar Rahman az Zeilawi, 
who died in 1883. At that time, Qadiriyah adherents were mer- 
chants in the ports and elsewhere. In a separate development, the 
Qadiriyah order also spread into the southern Somali port cities 
of Baraawe and Mogadishu at an uncertain date. In 1819 Shaykh 
Ibrahim Hassan Jebro acquired land on the Jubba River and es- 
tablished a religious center in the form of a farming community, 
the first Somali jamaa. 


The Society and Its Environment 

Outstanding figures of the Qadiriyah in Somalia included Shaykh 
Awes Mahammad Baraawi (d. 1909), who spread the teaching of 
the order in the southern interior. He wrote much devotional poetry 
in Arabic and attempted to translate traditional hymns from Arabic 
into Somali, working out his own phonetic system. Another was 
Shaykh Abdirrahman Abdullah of Mogadishu, who stressed deep 
mysticism. Because of his reputation for sanctity, his tomb at 
Mogadishu became a pilgrimage center for the Shabeelle area and 
his writings continued to be circulated by his followers in the early 

The Ahmadiyah-Idrisiyah order was founded by Ahmad ibn Idris 
al Fasi (1760-1837) of Mecca. It was brought to Somalia by Shaykh 
Ali Maye Durogba of Merca, a distinguished poet who joined the 
order during a pilgrimage to Mecca. His visions and the miracles 
attributed to him gained him a reputation for sanctity, and his tomb 
became a popular objective among pilgrims. The Ahmadiyah- 
Idrisiyah, the smallest of the three orders, has few ritual require- 
ments beyond some simple prayers and hymns. During its ceremo- 
nies, however, participants often go into trances. 

A conflict over the leadership of the Ahmadiyah-Idrisiyah among 
its Arab founders led to the establishment of the Salihiyah in 1887 
by Muhammad ibn Salih. The order spread first among the Somalis 
of the Ogaden area of Ethiopia, who entered Somalia about 1880. 
The Salihiyah' s most active proselytizer was Shaykh Mahammad 
Guled ar Rashidi, who became a regional leader. He settled among 
the Shidle people (Bantu-speakers occupying the middle reaches 
of the Shabeelle River), where he obtained land and established 
ajamaa. Later he founded another jamaa among the Ujuuraan (a 
section of the Hawiye clan-family) and then returned to establish 
still another community among the Shidle before his death in 1918. 
Perhaps the best known Somali Salihiyah figure was Mahammad 
Abdille Hasan, leader of a lengthy resistance to the British until 
1920 (see Sayyid Mahammad' s Dervish Resistance to Colonial Oc- 
cupation, ch. 1). 

Generally, the Salihiyah and the Ahmadiyah-Idrisiyah leaders 
were more interested in the establishment of jamaat along the 
Shabeelle and Jubba rivers and the fertile land between them than 
in teaching because few were learned in Islam. Their early efforts 
to establish farming communities resulted in cooperative cultiva- 
tion and harvesting and some effective agricultural methods. In 
Somalia's riverine region, for example, only jamaat members 
thought of stripping the brush from areas around their fields to 
reduce the breeding places of tsetse flies. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Local leaders of brotherhoods customarily asked lineage heads 
in the areas where they wished to settle for permission to build their 
mosques and communities. A piece of land was usually freely given; 
often it was an area between two clans or one in which nomads 
had access to a river. The presence of a jamaa not only provided 
a buffer zone between two hostile groups, but also caused the giver 
to acquire a blessing since the land was considered given to God. 
Tenure was a matter of charity only, however, and sometimes be- 
came precarious in case of disagreements. No statistics were avail- 
able in 1990 on the number of such settlements, but in the 1950s 
there were more than ninety in the south, with a total of about 
35,000 members. Most were in the Bakool, Gedo, and Bay regions 
or along the middle and lower Shabeelle River. There were few 
jamaat in other regions because the climate and soil did not en- 
courage agricultural settlements. 

Membership in a brotherhood is theoretically a voluntary mat- 
ter unrelated to kinship. However, lineages are often affiliated with 
a specific brotherhood and a man usually joins his father's order. 
Initiation is followed by a ceremony during which the order's dhikr 
is celebrated. Novices swear to accept the branch head as their 
spiritual guide. 

Each order has its own hierarchy that is supposedly a substitute 
for the kin group from which the members have separated them- 
selves. Veneration is given to previous heads of the order, known 
as the Chain of Blessing, rather than to ancestors. This practice 
is especially followed in the south, where place of residence tends 
to have more significance than lineage. 

Leaders of orders and their branches and of specific congrega- 
tions are said to have baraka, a state of blessedness implying an 
inner spiritual power that is inherent in the religious office and may 
cling to the tomb of a revered leader, who, upon death, is considered 
a saint. However, some saints are venerated because of their reli- 
gious reputations whether or not they were associated with an or- 
der or one of its communities. Sainthood also has been ascribed to 
others because of their status as founders of clans or large lineages. 
Northern pastoral nomads are likely to honor lineage founders as 
saints; sedentary Somalis revere saints for their piety and baraka. 

Because of the saint's spiritual presence at his tomb, pilgrims 
journey there to seek aid (such as a cure for illness or infertility). 
Members of the saint's order also visit the tomb, particularly on 
the anniversaries of his birth and death. 

Folk Islam and Indigenous Ritual 

Somalis have modified Islam, for example with reference to the 


The Society and Its Environment 

social significance of baraka. Baraka is considered a gift from God 
to the founders and heads of Sufi orders. It is likewise associated 
with secular leaders and their clan genealogies. 

A leader has power to bless, but his baraka may have potential- 
ly dangerous side effects. His curse is greatly feared, and his pow- 
er may harm others. When a clan leader visits the leader of another 
clan, the host's relative receives him first to draw off some of the 
visitor's power so that his own chief may not be injured. 

The traditional learning of a wadad includes a form of folk as- 
tronomy based on stellar movements and related to seasonal 
changes. Its primary objective is to signal the times for migration, 
but it may also be used to set the dates of rituals that are specifi- 
cally Somali. This folk knowledge is also used in ritual methods 
of healing and averting misfortune, as well as for divination. 

Wadaddo help avert misfortune by making protective amulets and 
charms that transmit some of their baraka to others, or by adding 
the Quran's baraka to the amulet through a written passage. The 
baraka of a saint may be obtained in the form of an object that 
has touched or been placed near his tomb. 

Although wadaddo may use their power to curse as a sanction, 
misfortune generally is not attributed to curses or witchcraft. Soma- 
lis have accepted the orthodox Muslim view that a man's conduct 
will be judged in an afterlife. However, a person who commits a 
forbidden act, such as patricide, is thought possessed of supernatural 
evil powers. 

Despite formal Islam's uncompromising monotheism, Muslims 
everywhere believe in the existence of mortal spirits (jinn), said 
to be descended from Iblis, a spirit fallen from heaven. Most Somalis 
consider all spirits to be evil but some believe there are benevolent 

Certain kinds of illness, including tuberculosis and pneumonia, 
or symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and loss of con- 
sciousness, are believed to result from spirit possession, namely, 
the wadaddo of the spirit world. The condition is treated by a hu- 
man wadad, preferably one who has himself recovered from the sick- 
ness. He reads portions of the Quran over the patient and bathes 
him with perfume, which in Somalia is associated with religious 

In the case of possession by the zar, a spirit, the ceremony of 
exorcism used to treat it is sometimes referred to as the il zar cult." 
The victims are women with grievances against their husbands. 
The symptoms are extreme forms of hysteria and fainting fits. The 
zar exorcism ritual is conducted by a woman who has had the afflic- 
tion and thus supposedly has some authority over the spirit. The 


Somalia: A Country Study 

ritual consists of a special dance in which the victim tends to 
reproduce the symptoms and fall into a trance. The "illness" en- 
ables a disgruntled wife to express her hostility without actually 
quarreling with her husband. 

A third kind of spirit possession is known as gelid (entering), in 
which the spirit of an injured person troubles the offender. A jilt- 
ed girl, for example, cannot openly complain if a promise of mar- 
riage arranged by the respective families has been broken. Her 
spirit, however, entering the young man who was supposed to marry 
her and stating the grievance, causes him to fall ill. The exorcism 
consists of readings from the Quran and commands from a wadad 
that the spirit leave the afflicted person. 

Gelid is also thought to be caused by the curse or evil power of 
a helpless person who has been injured. The underlying notion is 
that those who are weak in worldly matters are mystically endowed. 
Such persons are supposed to be under the special protection of 
God, and kind acts toward them bring religious merit, whereas 
unkind acts bring punishment. The evil eye, too, is associated with 
unfortunates, especially women. Thus, members of the Yibir, the 
numerically smallest and weakest of the special occupation groups 
and traditionally the lowliest socially, are the most feared for their 
supernatural powers. 

Somalis also engage in rituals that derive from preTslamic prac- 
tices and in some cases resemble those of other Eastern Cushitic- 
speaking peoples. Perhaps the most important of these rituals are 
the annual celebrations of the clan ancestor among northern 
Somalis — an expression of their solidarity — and the collective rain- 
making ritual (roobdoori) performed by sedentary groups in the south. 

Islam in the Colonial Era and After 

Because Muslims believe that their faith was revealed in its com- 
plete form to the Prophet Muhammad, it has been difficult to adapt 
Islam to the social, economic, and political changes that began with 
the expansion of colonial rule in the late nineteenth century. Some 
modifications have occurred, however. One response was to stress 
a return to orthodox Muslim traditions and to oppose Westerni- 
zation totally. The Sufi brotherhoods were at the forefront of this 
movement, personified in Somalia by Mahammad Abdille Hasan 
in the early 1900s. Generally, the leaders of Islamic orders opposed 
the spread of Western education. 

Another response was to reform Islam by reinterpreting it. From 
this perspective, early Islam was seen as a protest against abuse, 
corruption, and inequality; reformers therefore attempted to prove 
that Muslim scriptures contained all elements needed to deal with 


The Society and Its Environment 

modernization. To this school of thought belongs Islamic social- 
ism, identified particularly with Egyptian nationalist Gamal Ab- 
dul Nasser (1918-70). His ideas appealed to a number of Somalis, 
especially those who had studied in Cairo in the 1950s and 1960s. 

The 1961 constitution guaranteed freedom of religion but also 
declared the newly independent republic an Islamic state. The first 
two postindependence governments paid lip service to the princi- 
ples of Islamic socialism but made relatively few changes. The coup 
of October 21, 1969, installed a radical regime committed to pro- 
found change. Soon after, Xiddigta Oktoobar (October Star), the offi- 
cial SRC paper, published an editorial about relations between 
Islam and socialism and the differences between scientific and Is- 
lamic socialism. Islamic socialism was said to have become a ser- 
vant of capitalism and neocolonialism and a tool manipulated by 
a privileged, rich, and powerful class. In contrast, scientific socialism 
was based on the altruistic values that inspired genuine Islam. Re- 
ligious leaders should therefore leave secular affairs to the new lead- 
ers who were striving for goals that conformed with Islamic 
principles. Soon after, the government arrested several protesting 
religious leaders and accused them of counterrevolutionary 
propaganda and of conniving with reactionary elements in the Ara- 
bian Peninsula. The authorities also dismissed several members 
of religious tribunals for corruption and incompetence. 

When the Three-Year Plan, 1971-73, was launched in January 
1971, SRC leaders felt compelled to win the support of religious 
leaders so as to transform the existing social structure (see Scien- 
tific Socialism, 1970-75, ch. 3). On September 4, 1971, Siad Barre 
exhorted more than 100 religious teachers to participate in build- 
ing a new socialist society. He criticized their method of teaching 
in Quranic schools and charged some with using religion for per- 
sonal profit. 

The campaign for scientific socialism intensified in 1972. On the 
occasion of Id al Adha, the major Muslim festival associated with 
the pilgrimage, the president defined scientific socialism as half prac- 
tical work and half ideological belief. He declared that work and 
belief were compatible with Islam because the Quran condemned 
exploitation and moneylending and urged compassion, unity, and 
cooperation among Muslims. But he stressed the distinction be- 
tween religion as an ideological instrument for the manipulation 
of power and as a moral force. He condemned the antireligious 
attitude of Marxists. Religion, Siad Barre said, was an integral 
part of the Somali worldview, but it belonged in the private sphere, 
whereas scientific socialism dealt with material concerns such as 


Somalia: A Country Study 

poverty. Religious leaders should exercise their moral influence but 
refrain from interfering in political or economic matters. 

In early January 1975, evoking the message of equality, justice, 
and social progress contained in the Quran, Siad Barre announced 
a new family law that gave women the right to inheritance on an 
equal basis with men. Some Somalis believe the law was proof that 
the SRC wanted to undermine the basic structure of Islamic soci- 
ety. In Mogadishu twenty-three religious leaders protested inside 
their mosques. They were arrested and charged with acting at the 
instigation of a foreign power and with violating state security; ten 
were executed. Most religious leaders, however, kept silent. The 
government continued to organize training courses for shaykhs in 
scientific socialism. 

Rising Islamism 

Somali Islam rendered the world intelligible to Somalis and made 
their lives more bearable in a harsh land. Amidst the interclan vio- 
lence that characterized life in the early 1990s, Somalis naturally 
sought comfort in their faith to make sense of their national dis- 
aster. The traditional response of practicing Muslims to social trau- 
ma is to explain it in terms of a perceived sin that has caused society 
to stray from the "straight path of truth" and consequently to 
receive God's punishment. The way to regain God's favor is to 
repent collectively and rededicate society in accordance with Al- 
lah's divine precepts. 

On the basis of these beliefs, a Somali version of militant Islam- 
ism (sometimes seen as fundamentalism) sprang up to fill the vacu- 
um created by the collapse of the state. In the disintegrated Soma- 
li world of early 1992, Islamism appeared to be largely confined 
to Bender Cassim, a coastal town in Majeerteen country. For in- 
stance, a Yugoslav doctor who was a member of a United Nations 
team sent to aid the wounded was gunned down by masked as- 
sailants there in November 1991. Reportedly, the assassins belonged 
to an underground Islamist movement whose adherents wished to 
purify the country of "infidel" influence. 

Language and Education 


Except for a few communities along the southern Somali coast 
where Swahili (a Bantu language) and Arabic dialects are spoken, 
Somali nationals (including persons of non- Somali origin) speak one 
of several Somali dialects. Somali belongs to a set of languages called 
lowland Eastern Cushitic spoken by peoples living in Ethiopia, 


The Society and Its Environment 

Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya. Eastern Cushitic is one section of 
the Cushitic language family, which in turn is part of the great 
Afro-Asiatic stock. 

Of the Somali dialects, the most widely used is Common Soma- 
li, a term applied to several subdialects, the speakers of which can 
understand each other easily. Common Somali is spoken in most 
of Somalia and in adjacent territories (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibou- 
ti) and is used by broadcasting stations in Somalia and in Somali- 
language broadcasts originating outside the country. Coastal Somali 
is spoken on the Banaadir Coast (from Cadale to south of Baraawe) 
and its immediate hinterland. Central Somali is spoken in the in- 
terriverine area, chiefly by members of the Rahanwayn clan-family. 
Speakers of Common and Coastal Somali can understand each other 
after a few weeks of close contact, speakers of Common and Cen- 
tral Somali only after a few months. 

Facility with language is highly valued in Somali society; the capa- 
bility of a suitor, a warrior, or a political or religious leader is judged 
in part by his verbal adroitness. In such a society, oral poetry be- 
comes an art, and one's ability to compose verse in one or more 
of its several forms enhances one's status. 

Speakers in political or religious assemblies and litigants in courts 
traditionally were expected to use poetry or poetic proverbs. Even 
everyday talk tended to have a terse, vivid, poetic style, charac- 
terized by carefully chosen words, condensed meaning, and al- 

Until the establishment of the Somali script in January 1973, 
there were two languages of government — English and Italian. In 
the prerevolutionary era, English became dominant in the school 
system and in government, which caused some conflict between 
elites from northern and southern Somalia. However, the over- 
arching issue was the development of a socioeconomic stratum based 
on mastery of a foreign language. The relatively small proportion 
of Somalis (less than 10 percent) with a grasp of such a language — 
preferably English — had access to government positions and the 
few managerial or technical jobs in modern private enterprises. Such 
persons became increasingly isolated from their nonliterate Somali- 
speaking brethren, but because the secondary schools and most 
government posts were in urban areas, the socioeconomic and lin- 
guistic distinction was in large part a rural-urban one. To some 
extent, it was also a north-south distinction because those educat- 
ed in the Italian system and even in Italian universities found it 
increasingly difficult to reach senior government levels. 

Even before the 1969 revolution, Somalis had become aware of 
social stratification and the growing distance, based on language 


Somalia: A Country Study 

and literacy differences, between ordinary Somalis and those in 
government. The 1972 decision to designate an official Somali script 
and require its use in government demolished the language barri- 
er and an important obstacle to rapid literacy growth. 

In the years following the institution of the Somali script, Somali 
officials were required to learn the script, and attempts were made 
to inculcate mass literacy — in 1973 among urban and rural seden- 
tary Somalis, and in 1974-75 among nomads. Although a few texts 
existed in the new script before 1973, in most cases new books were 
prepared presenting the government's perspective on Somali his- 
tory and development. Somali scholars also succeeded in develop- 
ing a vocabulary to deal with a range of subjects from mathematics 
and physics to administration and ideology. 

By the late 1970s, sufficient Somali materials were available to 
permit the language to be the medium of instruction at all school 
levels below the university. Arabic was taught to all students, be- 
ginning at the elementary level and continuing into the secondary 
phase. Because Italians dominated the senior faculty at the national 
university in the late 1970s, Italian remained in wide use. By the 
late 1980s, Somali was the language of instruction at the universi- 
ty as well. 


In the colonial period, Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland 
pursued different educational policies. The Italians sought to train 
pupils to become farmers or unskilled workers so as to minimize 
the number of Italians needed for these purposes. The British es- 
tablished an elementary education system during the military ad- 
ministration to train Somali males for administrative posts and for 
positions not previously open to them. They set up a training school 
for the police and one for medical orderlies. 

During the trusteeship period, education was supposedly 
governed by the Trusteeship Agreement, which declared that in- 
dependence could only be based on "education in the broadest 
sense. " Despite Italian opposition, the UN had passed the Trustee- 
ship Agreement calling for a system of public education: elemen- 
tary, secondary, and vocational, in which at least elementary 
education was free. The authorities were also to establish teacher- 
training institutions and to facilitate higher and professional edu- 
cation by sending an adequate number of students for university 
study abroad. 

The result of these provisions was that to obtain an education, 
a Somali had the choice of attending a traditional Quranic school 
or the Roman Catholic mission- run government schools. The 



Somalia: A Country Study 

language of instruction in these schools was Arabic or Italian, not 
Somali. The fifteen pre-World War I schools (ten government 
schools and five orphanage schools) in Italian Somaliland had an 
enrollment of less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the population. 
Education for Somalis ended with the elementary level; only Italians 
attended intermediate schools. Of all Italian colonies, Somalia 
received the least financial aid for education. 

In British Somaliland, the military administration appointed a 
British officer as superintendent of education in 1944. Britain later 
seconded six Zanzibari instructors from the East Africa Army Edu- 
cation Corps for duty with the Somali Education Department. In 
1947 there were seventeen government elementary schools for the 
Somali and Arab population, two private schools, and a teacher- 
training school with fifty Somali and Arab students. 

Until well after World War II, there was little demand for 
Western-style education. Moreover, the existence of two official 
languages (English and Italian) and a third (Arabic, widely revered 
as the language of the Quran if not widely used and understood) 
posed problems for a uniform educational system and for literacy 
training at the elementary school level. 

The relative lack of direction in education policy in the prerevolu- 
tionary period under the SRC gave way to the enunciation in the 
early 1970s of several goals reflecting the philosophy of the revolu- 
tionary regime. Among these goals were expansion of the school 
system to accommodate the largest possible student population; in- 
troduction of courses geared to the country's social and economic 
requirements; expansion of technical education; and provision of 
higher education within Somalia so that most students who pur- 
sued advanced studies would acquire their knowledge in a Somali 
context. The government also announced its intention to eliminate 
illiteracy. Considerable progress toward these goals had been 
achieved by the early 1980s. 

In the societal chaos following the fall of Siad Barre in early 1991 , 
schools ceased to exist for all practical purposes. In 1990, however, 
the system had four basic levels — preprimary, primary, secondary, 
and higher. The government controlled all schools, private schools 
having been nationalized in 1972 and Quranic education having 
been made an integral part of schooling in the late 1970s. 

The preprimary training given by Quranic schools lasted until 
the late 1970s. Quranic teachers traveled with nomadic groups, 
and many children received only the education offered by such 
teachers. There were a number of stationary religious schools in 
urban areas as well. The decision in the late 1970s to bring Islamic 
education into the national system reflected a concern that most 


The Society and Its Environment 

Quranic learning was rudimentary at best, as well as a desire for 
tighter government control over an autonomous area. 

Until the mid-1970s, primary education consisted of four years 
of elementary schooling followed by four grades designated as in- 
termediate. In 1972 promotion to the intermediate grades was made 
automatic (a competitive examination had been required until that 
year). The two cycles subsequently were treated as a single con- 
tinuous program. In 1975 the government established universal 
primary education, and primary education was reduced to six years. 
By the end of the 1978-79 school year, however, the government 
reintroduced the eight-year primary school system because the six- 
year program had proved unsatisfactory. 

The number of students enrolled in the primary level increased 
each year, beginning in 1969-70, but particularly after 1975-76. 
Primary schooling theoretically began at age six, but many chil- 
dren started later. Many, especially girls, did not attend school, 
and some dropped out, usually after completing four years. 

In 1981 Somalia informed the UN Conference on the Least De- 
veloped Countries that the nomadic population was "omitted from 
the formal education program for the purposes of forecasting 
primary education enrollment." In the late 1970s and early 1980s, 
the government provided a three-year education program for no- 
madic children. For six months of each year, when the seasons per- 
mitted numbers of nomads to aggregate, the children attended 
school; the rest of the year the children accompanied their fami- 
lies. Nomadic families who wanted their children to attend school 
throughout the year had to board them in a permanent settlement. 

In addition to training in reading, writing, and arithmetic, the 
primary curriculum provided social studies courses using new text- 
books that focused on Somali issues. Arabic was to be taught as 
a second language beginning in primary school, but it was doubt- 
ful that there were enough qualified Somalis able to teach it be- 
yond the rudimentary level. Another goal, announced in the 
mid-1970s, was to give students some modern knowledge of agricul- 
ture and animal husbandry. Primary school graduates, however, 
lacked sufficient knowledge to earn a living at a skilled trade. 

In the late 1980s, the number of students enrolled in secondary 
school was less than 10 percent of the total in primary schools, a 
result of the dearth of teachers, schools, and materials. Most second- 
ary schools were still in urban areas; given the rural and largely 
nomadic nature of the population, these were necessarily board- 
ing schools. Further, the use of Somali at the secondary level re- 
quired Somali teachers, which entailed a training period. Beginning 
in the 1980-81 school year, the government created a formula for 


Somalia: A Country Study 

allocating postprimary students. It assumed that 80 percent of 
primary school graduates would go on to further education. Of 
these, 30 percent would attend four-year general secondary edu- 
cation, 17.5 percent either three- or four-year courses in technical 
education, and 52.5 percent vocational courses of one to two years' 

The principal institution of higher education was Somali Na- 
tional University in Mogadishu, founded in 1970. The nine early 
faculties were agriculture, economics, education, engineering, ge- 
ology, law, medicine, sciences, and veterinary science. Added in 
the late 1970s were the faculty of languages and a combination of 
journalism and Islamic studies. The College of Education, which 
prepared secondary- school teachers in a two-year program, was 
part of the university. About 700 students were admitted to the 
university each year in the late 1970s; roughly 15 percent of those 
completed the general secondary course and the four-year techni- 
cal course. Despite a high dropout rate, the authorities projected 
an eventual intake of roughly 25 percent of general and technical 
secondary school graduates. 

In 1990 several other institutes also admitted secondary-school 
graduates. Among these were schools of nursing, telecommunica- 
tions, and veterinary science, and a polytechnic institute. The num- 
bers enrolled and the duration of the courses were not known. 

In addition, several programs were directed at adults. The 
government had claimed 60 percent literacy after the mass litera- 
cy campaign of the mid-1970s, but by early 1977 there were signs 
of relapse, particularly among nomads. The government then es- 
tablished the National Adult Education Center to coordinate the 
work of several ministries and many voluntary and part-time paid 
workers in an extensive literacy program, largely in rural areas for 
persons sixteen to forty-five years of age. Despite these efforts, the 
UN estimate of Somali literacy in 1990 was only 24 percent. 


The collapse of the government in January 1991 with the fall 
of Siad Barre led to further deterioration of Somalia's health situ- 
ation. The high incidence of disease that persisted into the early 
1990s reflected a difficult environment, inadequate nutrition, and 
insufficient medical care. In the years since the revolutionary re- 
gime had come to power, drought, flood, warfare (and the refu- 
gee problem resulting from the latter) had, if anything, left diets 
more inadequate than before. Massive changes that would make 
the environment less hostile, such as the elimination of disease- 
transmitting organisms, had yet to take place. The numbers of 


Woman feeding 
her baby in a maternal 
and child feeding center, 
Mogadishu, 1991 
Hiram A. Ruiz 

medical personnel and health facilities had increased, but they did 
not meet Somali needs in the early 1990s and seemed unlikely to 
do so for some time. 

The major maladies prevalent in Somalia included pulmonary 
tuberculosis, malaria, and infectious and parasitic diseases. In ad- 
dition, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), tetanus, venereal disease (espe- 
cially in the port towns), leprosy, and a variety of skin and eye 
ailments severely impaired health and productivity. As elsewhere, 
smallpox had been eliminated, but occasional epidemics of measles 
could have devastating effects. In early 1992, Somalia had a hu- 
man immunodeficiency virus (HIV) incidence of less than 1 per- 
cent of its population. 

Environmental, economic, and social conditions were conducive 
to a relatively high incidence of tuberculosis. Young males who 
herded camels, often under severe conditions, were particularly sus- 
ceptible to the disease. Efforts to deal with tuberculosis had some 
success in urban centers, but control measures were difficult to apply 
to the nomadic and seminomadic population. 

Malaria was prevalent in the southern regions, particularly those 
traversed by the country's two major rivers. By the mid-1970s, a 
malaria eradication program had been extended from Mogadishu 
to other regions; good results were then reported, but there were 
no useful statistics for the early 1990s. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Approximately 75 percent of the population was affected by one 
or more kinds of intestinal parasites; this problem would persist 
as long as contaminated water sources were used and the way of 
life of most rural Somalis remained unchanged. Schistosomiasis 
was particularly prevalent in the marshy and irrigated areas along 
the rivers in the south. Parasites contributed to general debilita- 
tion and made the population susceptible to other diseases. 

Underlying Somali susceptibility to disease was widespread mal- 
nutrition, exacerbated from time to time by drought and since the 
late 1970s by the refugee burden (see Refugees, this ch.). Although 
reliable statistics were not available, the high child mortality rate 
was attributed to inadequate nutrition. 

Until the collapse of the national government in 1991, the organi- 
zation and administration of health services were the responsibility 
of the Ministry of Health, although regional medical officers had 
some authority. The Siad Barre regime had ended private medical 
practice in 1972, but in the late 1980s private practice returned as 
Somalis became dissatisfied with the quality of government health 

From 1973 to 1978, there was a substantial increase in the num- 
ber of physicians, and a far greater proportion of them were Soma- 
lis. Of 198 physicians in 1978, a total of 118 were Somalis, whereas 
only 37 of 96 had been Somalis in 1973. 

In the 1970s, an effort was made to increase the number of other 
health personnel and to foster the construction of health facilities. 
To that end, two nursing schools opened and several other health- 
related educational programs were instituted. Of equal importance 
was the countrywide distribution of medical personnel and facili- 
ties. In the early 1970s, most personnel and facilities were concen- 
trated in Mogadishu and a few other towns. The situation had 
improved somewhat by the late 1970s, but the distribution of health 
care remained unsatisfactory. 


The 1977-78 Ogaden War caused a massive influx of Somalis 
who had been living in eastern Ethiopia (and to a lesser extent from 
other areas) into Somalia. Most refugees were ethnic Somalis, but 
there were also many Oromo, an ethnic group that resided primarily 
in Ethiopia. The Somali government appealed for help to the United 
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Septem- 
ber 1979, but the UNHCR did not initiate requests for interna- 
tional aid until March 1980. 

In its first public appeal to the UN, the Somali government es- 
timated 310,000 in the camps in September 1979. By mid-1980 


The Society and Its Environment 

estimates had risen to 750,000 persons in camps and at least half 
that number outside them. In early 1981, Mogadishu estimated 
that there were more than 1.3 million refugees in the camps and 
an additional 700,000 to 800,000 refugees at large, either attempting 
to carry on their nomadic way of life or quartered in towns and 

In 1980 representatives of international agencies and other aid 
donors expressed skepticism at the numbers Somalia claimed, and 
in 1981 these agencies asked UN demographers to conduct a sur- 
vey. The survey estimated 450,000 to 620,000 refugees in the 
camps; no estimate was made of the number of refugees outside 
the camps. The Somali government rejected the survey's results; 
international agencies subsequently based their budgeting on a 
figure of 650,000. 

Conflicting figures concerning the composition of the refugee 
population by age and sex led a team of epidemiologists from the 
Centers for Disease Control of the United States Public Health Ser- 
vice to determine the demographic characteristics of a sample of 
refugee camps in mid- 1980. They found the very young (under 
five years of age) to range from 1 5 to 18 percent of the camp popu- 
lation; those from five to fifteen years of age ranged from 45 to 
47 percent; from 29 to 33 percent were between fifteen years of 
age and forty-four; 6 to 8 percent were forty-five years or older. 
The epidemiologists did not find the male-female ratio unusually 

In 1990 there were refugee camps in four of Somalia's sixteen 
regions, or administrative districts (see fig. 5). The number of per- 
sons in these camps ranged from under 3,000 to more than 70,000, 
but most held 35,000 to 45,000 refugees. According to a govern- 
ment document, the camps in Gedo held a total of more than 
450,000 persons, in Hiiraan more than 375,000, in Woqooyi Gal- 
beed well over 400,000, and in Shabeellaha Hoose nearly 70,000. 

The burden of the refugee influx on Somalia was heavy. Soma- 
lia was one of the world's poorest countries, an importer of food 
in ordinary circumstances and lacking crucial elements of physi- 
cal and social infrastructure such as transportation and health fa- 
cilities. The general poverty of the indigenous population and the 
ad hoc character of the National Refugee Commission established 
under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development 
and other government agencies dealing with the refugee problem 
contributed to the misuse and even the outright theft of food and 
medical supplies intended for refugees. 

In a country with limited arable land and fuels and visited fairly 
often by drought or flash floods, refugees were hard put to contribute 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Qtitf of ?Mm 

Figure 5. Refugee Camps in Somalia, 1990 

to their own support. Some refugee camps were so located that 
transportation of food and medical supplies was fairly easy, but 
that was not true for many other camps. Some were in or near 
areas where, in a year of good rain, crops could be grown, but 
others were not. In almost all cases, easily accessible firewood had 
been rapidly depleted by early 1981, and the refugees had to go 
long distances for what little could be found. 

Despite the responses of a number of countries — including the 
United States — to the nutritional and medical requirements of the 


The Society and Its Environment 

refugees, their situation in mid- 1981 remained difficult. Epidemi- 
ologists from the Centers for Disease Control reported in early 1980 
that the "major problem affecting the refugee children was pro- 
tein energy malnutrition." Child mortality was high, particularly 
among newly arrived refugees. A 1980 epidemic of measles was 
responsible for many deaths in camps in Gedo and Woqooyi Gal- 
beed. Another leading cause of children's deaths was diarrhea, a 
consequence in part of the severe lack of adequate sanitation, par- 
ticularly with respect to water sources. 

To sustain the refugee population even at a low level required 
regular contributions from other countries, an adequate and com- 
petently managed distribution system and, if possible, some con- 
tribution by the refugees themselves to their own subsistence. In 
April 1981, Somalia's Ministry of National Planning and Jubba 
Valley Development issued its Short- and Long- Term Programme for 
Refugees detailing projected needs and proposals, all of which re- 
quired international support in various forms — money, food, med- 
ical supplies, and foreign staff, among others. When the program 
was published, overall responsibility for refugees lay with the Minis- 
try of Local Government and Rural Development and its Nation- 
al Refugee Commission. Other ministries, including those of health 
and education, had responsibility for specific projects. By 1990 many 
ministries had special divisions or sections devoted to refugee mat- 
ters. However, as noted earlier, by mid- 1991 government minis- 
tries had ceased functioning. 

Age and sex composition, camp conditions, and refugee needs 
remained roughly constant until 1988, when the civil war, partic- 
ularly in the north, produced a new and massive wave of refugees. 
This time the refugees went from Somalia to Ethiopia, where a 
large number of displaced northerners, mainly members of the Isaaq 
clan-family fleeing the violence and persecution from the Somali 
Army's "pacification" campaigns, sought sanctuary in Ethiopia's 
eastern province, Harerge Kifle Hager. The new wave of asylum- 
seekers almost doubled the number of displaced persons in the 
region. According to the UNHCR, Ethiopia and Somalia between 
them hosted in 1989 a refugee population of about 1.3 million. 
Nearly 960,000 of the total were ethnic Somalis. Somalia hosted 
600,000 refugees, of whom nearly 80 percent were ethnic Somalis 
from Harerge, Ogaden, Bale, and Borena regions. The remain- 
ing 20 percent were Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the Horn 
of Africa, from Harerge, Bale, and Borena regions. 

In southern Somalia, refugees lived in camps in the Gedo and 
Shabeellaha Hoose regions. In the northwest, camps were distrib- 
uted in the corridor between Hargeysa and Boorama, northwest 


Somalia: A Country Study 

of Hargeysa. Because of the nomadic tendency of the Somali and 
Oromo refugees, major population shifts occurred frequently. 

According to UNHCR statistical data for 1990, the camps in 
southern and central Somalia housed about 460,000 displaced per- 
sons. No reliable statistical data existed on the gender and age com- 
position of the refugee population in Somalia. Informed conjecture 
put the sex ratio at 60 percent female and 40 percent male — the 
differential resulting from the migration of some of the men to the 
oil-rich Middle East countries, where they sought employment. 

A significant number of Somali refugees emigrated to Europe- 
an countries, in particular Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Fin- 
land (where Somalis constituted the largest number of refugees), 
and Canada. Britain had a particularly generous asylum policy 
toward Isaaq refugees. 

In providing assistance and relief programs, the UNHCR had 
collaborated in the past with an assortment of nongovernmental 
organizations and voluntary agencies. Their assistance fell into two 
general categories: care and maintenance programs, and what was 
described as a "durable solution." The former were assistance pro- 
grams alleviating immediate needs for food, water, sanitation, 
health, shelter, community services, legal assistance, and related 
requirements. Durable solutions were voluntary repatriation based 
on prior clearance given by the Ethiopian government, local in- 
tegration in Somalia with limited assistance, and facilitation of in- 
tegration of refugees who demonstrated a well-founded fear for their 
safety should they repatriate. For most refugee assistance programs, 
local difficulties caused problems that led to charges of mismanage- 
ment, insensitivity, and corruption. 

In 1990 there were approximately 360,000 Somali refugees in 
eastern Ethiopia, almost all of whom belonged to the Isaaq clan 
from northern Somalia. These refugees had sought asylum as a 
result of the May 1988 attack in which Somali National Movement 
guerrillas seized the city of Burao for three days and almost oc- 
cupied Hargeysa. In the counteroffensive, government troops in- 
discriminately shelled cities, causing practically the entire Isaaq 
urban population to flee in panic into Ethiopia. Six refugee camps 
contained the displaced Isaaq: 140,000 in the Aware camps of 
Camabokar, Rabasso, and Daror; 10,000 in Aysha; and 210,000 
in two camps at Hartishek. 

According to the UNHCR, in the camps for Somali refugees 
the refugees generally lived in family units. Although the 1988 in- 
flux contained mainly urban dwellers from Hargeysa and Burao, 
by the end of 1989 the camp population included many pastoral - 
ists and nomads. Their tendency to remain in one location for 


The Society and Its Environment 

only short periods presented major problems for public health 

With the flight of Siad Barre and consequent fall of his govern- 
ment in late January 1991, significant population shifts occurred. 
According to sketchy UNHCR reports, there were more than 
50,000 Somali refugees in various camps in Mombasa, Kenya. 
These were mainly Daarood who had fled as a result of Hawiye 
clan-family assaults on them when the state disintegrated and the 
Daarood residents of Mogadishu became the objects of revenge kill- 
ings. Another 150,000 were scattered in the North-Eastern Region 
of Kenya, especially in and around the border town of Liboi and 
slightly farther inland. Other thousands had fled to eastern Ethio- 
pia, where the UNHCR stated it was feeding more than 400,000 
ethnic Somalis. Many others were dispersed throughout the bor- 
der areas. 

Breakdown of the Infrastructure 

The Somali environment — both human and ecological — has de- 
teriorated since the collapse of the state in early 1991. The conse- 
quent outbreak of intra- and interclan conflicts engulfed the 
peninsula in a catastrophic civil war that had claimed, by a con- 
servative estimate, more than 200,000 Somali lives by early 1992. 
The cities of Mogadishu and Hargeysa had been reduced to rub- 
ble, with government buildings and homes looted or razed by gangs 
armed with assault rifles. Even telephone wires had been dug up, 
stolen, and exported for sale to the United Arab Emirates. 

In the fields of education and health, a sharp decline occurred 
and only minimal services continued to exist. Because of the destruc- 
tion of schools and supporting services, a whole generation of Soma- 
lis faced the prospect of a return to illiteracy. Many people who 
had fled to the cities initially because of the civil war sought refuge 
in camps elsewhere, often refugee camps outside Somalia. More 
than one year of civil war had wiped out most of the intellectual 
and material progress of the preceding thirty years. In short, Somali 
society had retrogressed to a collection of warring clans reminis- 
cent of preindustrial times. 

* * * 

Enrico Cerulli's three-volume work, Somalia: Scritti vari editi ed 
inediti, remains the most comprehensive study of Somali society: 
pastoral institutions, history, politics, literature, and language. The 
classic work on the social and political system of pastoral nomadic 
Somalis of northern Somalia (based on research done in the 1950s) 


Somalia: A Country Study 

is I.M. Lewis's A Pastoral Democracy. Peoples of the Horn of Africa: 
Somalia, Afar, and Saho also by Lewis is a major source on Somali 
ethnic groups. The dean of Somali studies, Lewis has written 
numerous articles, several of which deal with Somali Islam and 
indigenous religion. His "From Nomadism to Cultivation" pro- 
vides an introduction to the traditional social and political orders 
of the interriverine sedentary Somalis. Virginia Luling has pub- 
lished some of her findings on one group of sedentary Somalis (the 
Geledi clan and its neighbors) in "Colonial and Postcolonial Influ- 
ences on a South Somali Community. " David D. Laitin's Politics, 
Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience concerns the political 
aspects of deciding on a written form for the Somali language. 

Lee Cassanelli's The Shaping of Somali Society sheds valuable light 
on the evolution and structure of southern Somali tribes, such as 
the Geledi and Biyamaal, as well as on Islamic institutions such 
as the cult of saints. Said S. Samatar's Oral Poetry and Somali Na- 
tionalism provides a comprehensive treatment of the intimate in- 
terplay between pastoralism and oral poetry and that literary form's 
uses as a tool in mobilizing public opinion, in mass communica- 
tion, and in related areas of oratory and rhetoric. (For further in- 
formation and complete citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 3. The Economy 

Bananas, one of Somalia 's prinicpal commercial crops 

ALREADY SERIOUSLY WEAKENED by a devastating civil 
war, the Somali economy was further undermined by the fall of 
President Mahammad Siad Barre's government in late January 
1991 and the subsequent absence of political consensus. Economic 
statistics from the early post-Siad Barre period were not avail- 
able in the latter part of 1992; however, one can gain some under- 
standing of Somalia's economic situation during that period by 
looking at the country's prior economic history. 

Generally, interventions in the Somali economy, whether by 
Italian fascists, Somali Marxists, or International Monetary Fund 
(IMF — see Glossary) economists, have had minimal impact on eco- 
nomic development. Yet the shrewd Somalis have been able to sur- 
vive and even prosper in their harsh desert homeland. 

Pastoralism and Commerce in Historical Perspective 

The Somalis raise cattle, sheep, and goats, but the camel plays 
the central role as an indicator of wealth and success. Camels can 
survive in an environment where water and grazing areas are scarce 
and widely scattered. They provide meat, milk, and transporta- 
tion for Somali pastoralists, and serve as their principal medium 
of exchange. Camels are provided as compensation for homicides 
and are a standard component of the dowry package. 

For centuries, nomads have relied on their livestock for subsis- 
tence and luxuries. They have sold cows, goats, and older camels 
to international traders and butchers in the coastal cities, and in 
the urban markets have bought tea, coffee beans, and salt. In the 
nineteenth century, northern Somalis were quick to take advan- 
tage of the market for goats with middlemen representing the Brit- 
ish, who needed meat for their enclave in Aden, a coaling station 
for ships traveling through the Suez Canal. By the turn of the cen- 
tury, about 1,000 cattle and 80,000 sheep and goats were being 
exported annually from Berbera to Aden. 

Starting in the fifteenth century, the ports of Seylac and Ber- 
bera were well integrated into the international Arab economy, with 
weapons, slaves, hides, skins, gums, ghee (a type of butter), os- 
trich feathers, and ivory being traded. On the Banaadir coast, es- 
pecially in Mogadishu but also in Merca and Baraawe, a lively 
trade with China, India, and Arabia existed as early as the four- 
teenth century. Finally, starting with the Somalis, who for centu- 
ries have joined the crews of oceangoing ships, the exportation of 


Somalia: A Country Study 

labor has long been a crucial element in Somalia's ability to sus- 
tain itself. 

The Colonial Economy 

The colonial era did not spark foreign economic investment 
despite the competition of three major European powers in the area 
of present-day Somalia. Italy controlled southern Somalia; Britain, 
northern Somalia, especially the coastal region; and France, the 
area that became Djibouti (see Imperial Partition, ch. 1). Italian 
parliamentary opposition restricted any government activity in 
Somalia for years after European treaties recognized Italian claims. 
In the early twentieth century, projects aimed at using Somalia 
as a settlement for Italian citizens from the crowded homeland failed 
miserably. Although in the early 1930s Benito Mussolini drew up 
ambitious plans for economic development, actual investment was 

There was still less investment in British Somaliland, which In- 
dia had administered. During the prime ministership of William 
Gladstone in the 1880s, it was decided the British India govern- 
ment should be responsible for administering the Somaliland pro- 
tectorate because the Somali coast's strategic location on the Gulf 
of Aden was important to India. Customs taxes helped pay for In- 
dia's patrol of Somalia's Red Sea coast. The biggest investment 
by the British colonial government in its three-quarters of a cen- 
tury of rule was in putting down the rebellion of the dervishes. In 
1947, long after the dervish war of the early 1900s, the entire budget 
for the administration of the British protectorate was only £213, 139 
(see Sayyid Mahammad's Dervish Resistance to Colonial Occu- 
pation, ch. 1). If Italy's rhetoric concerning Italian Somaliland out- 
paced performance, Britain had no illusions about its protectorate 
in Somaliland. At best, the Somali protectorate had some strate- 
gic value to Britain's eastern trading empire in protecting the trade 
route to Aden and India and helping assure a steady supply of food 
for Aden. 

The two major economic developments of the colonial era were 
the establishment of plantations in the interriverine area and the 
creation of a salaried official class. In the south, the Italians laid 
the basis for profitable export-oriented agriculture, primarily in 
bananas, through the creation of plantations and irrigation sys- 
tems. In both the north and the south, a stable petty bourgeois 
class emerged. Somalis became civil servants, teachers, and sol- 
diers, petty traders in coastal cities, and small-business proprietors. 

The plantation system began in 1919, with the arrival in Italian 
Somaliland of Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, duke of Abruzzi, 


The Economy 

and with the technical support of the fascist administration of Gover- 
nor Cesare Maria dei Vecchi di Val Cismon. The Shabeelle Val- 
ley was chosen as the site of these plantations because for most of 
the year the Shabeelle River had sufficient water for irrigation. The 
plantations produced cotton (the first Somali export crop), sugar, 
and bananas. Banana exports to Italy began in 1927, and gained 
primary importance in the colony after 1929, when the world cot- 
ton market collapsed. Somali bananas could not compete in price 
with those from the Canary Islands, but in 1927 and 1930 Italy 
passed laws imposing tariffs on all non-Somali bananas. These laws 
facilitated Somali agricultural development so that between 1929 
and 1936 the area under banana cultivation increased seventeen- 
fold to 3,975 hectares. By 1935 the Italian government had con- 
stituted a Royal Banana Plantation Monopoly (Regia Azienda 
Monopolio Banane — RAMB) to organize banana exports under 
state authority. Seven Italian ships were put at RAMB's disposal 
to encourage the Somali banana trade. After World War II, when 
the United Nations (UN) granted republican Italy jurisdiction over 
Somalia as a trust territory, RAMB was reconstituted as the Banana 
Plantation Monopoly (Azienda Monopolio Banane — AMB) to en- 
courage the revival of a sector that had been nearly demolished 
by the war. 

Plantation agriculture under Italian tutelage had short-term suc- 
cess, but Somali products never became internationally competi- 
tive. In 1955 a total of 235 concessions embraced more than 45,300 
hectares (with only 7,400 hectares devoted to bananas), and pro- 
duced 94,000 tons of bananas. Under fixed contracts, the three 
banana trade associations sold their output to the AMB, which ex- 
acted an indirect tax on the Italian consumer by keeping out cheaper 
bananas from other sources. The protected Italian market was a 
mixed blessing for the Somali banana sector. Whereas it made pos- 
sible the initial penetration by Somali bananas of the Italian mar- 
ketplace, it also eliminated incentives for Somali producers to 
become internationally competitive or to seek markets beyond Italy. 

The investment in cotton showed fewer long-term results than 
the investment in bananas. Cotton showed some promise in 1929, 
but its price fell following the collapse in the world market. Nearly 
1 ,400 tons in 1929 exports shrank to about 400 tons by 1937. During 
the trust period, there were years of modest success; in 1952, for 
example, about 1,000 tons of cotton were exported. There was 
however, no consistent growth. In 1953 exports dropped by two- 
thirds. Two reasons are given for cotton's failure as an export crop: 
an unstable world market and the lack of Somali wage labor for cot- 
ton harvesting. Because of the labor scarcity, Italian concessionaires 


Somalia: A Country Study 

worked out coparticipation contracts with Somali farmers; the 
Italians received sole purchasing rights to the crop in return for 
providing seed, cash advances, and technical support. 

Another plantation crop, sugarcane, was more successful. The 
sugar economy differed from the banana and cotton economies in 
two respects: sugar was raised for domestic consumption, and a 
single firm, the Italo-Somali Agricultural Society (Societa Agrico- 
la Italo-Somala — SAIS), headquartered in Genoa, controlled the 
sector. Organized in 1920, the SAIS estate near Giohar had, by 
the time of the trust period, a little less than 2,000 hectares under 
cultivation. In 1950 the sugar factory's output reached 4,000 tons, 
enough to meet about 80 percent of domestic demand; by 1957 
production had reached 11,000 tons, and Italian Somaliland no 
longer imported sugar. 

Labor shortages beset Italian concessionaires and administra- 
tors in all plantation industries. Most Somalis refused to work on 
farms for wage labor. The Italians at first conscripted the Bantu 
people who lived in the agricultural region. Later, Italian compa- 
nies paid wages to agricultural families to plant and harvest ex- 
port crops, and permitted them to keep private gardens on some 
of the irrigated land. This strategy met with some success, and a 
relatively permanent work force developed. Somali plantation 
agriculture was of only marginal significance to the world econo- 
my, however. Banana exports reached US$6.4 million in 1957; 
those of cotton, US$200,000. But in 1957 plantation exports con- 
stituted 59 percent of total exports, representing a major contri- 
bution to the Somali economy. 

The colonial period also involved government employment of 
salaried officials and the concomitant growth of a small urban pet- 
ty bourgeoisie. In the north, the British administration originally 
had concentrated on the coastal area for trading purposes but soon 
discovered that livestock to be traded came from the interior. There- 
fore, it was necessary to safeguard caravan routes and keep peace 
in port areas, requiring the development of police forces and other 
civil services. In British Somaliland, many of the nomads scorned 
European education and opposed the establishment of Christian 
missions. Consequently, only a small pool of literate Somalis was 
available to work for the British administration. Kenyans there- 
fore were hired. In the south, however, Somalis sent children to 
colonial and mission schools, and the graduates found civil service 
positions in the police force and as customs agents, bookkeepers, 
medical personnel, and teachers. These civil servants became a 
natural market for new retail businesses, restaurants, and coffee 
shops. Hargeysa in the precolonial period had almost no permanent 


The Economy 

commercial establishments; by 1945, nearly 500 businesses were 
registered in the district. The new salaried class filled the ranks 
of the Somali nationalist movement after World War II. Literate 
in Italian or English, these urban Somalis challenged colonial rule. 

Economic Development, 1960-69 

At independence the Somali economy was at a near subsistence 
level, and the new state lacked the administrative capacity to col- 
lect taxes from subsistence herders and farmers. The state could 
rely on the customs taxes from international trade, which were easier 
to collect, but tariffs failed to meet the needs of a government with 
ambitious development goals. Somalia therefore relied on Italian 
and British subsidies, which funded about 31 percent of the new 
nation's current budget in the first three years of independence. 

Somalia also received grants and loans from countries in the East 
and the West, which made possible the articulation of an ambi- 
tious development plan by 1963. A five-year plan with a budget 
of more than US$100 million in grants and loans, it focused on 
investment in infrastructure. The plan's thesis was that plantation 
crops and livestock exports would increase if there were better roads, 
transportation facilities, ports, and irrigation works. Another large 
investment was made in the creation of model farms to attract farm- 
ers from around the country, who would learn improved techniques 
to apply on their own farms. Model farms in Baidoa in the Bay 
Region, Afgooye near Mogadishu, and Tog Wajaale, west of Har- 
geysa, were established during this period. 

In the pastoral sector, the Livestock Development Agency, 
formed in 1965-66, emphasized veterinary services, the provision 
of water and of holding grounds for cattle while they were under- 
going inoculation, and transportation. Somali pastoralists responded 
with enthusiasm to the prospects for wealth by entering the inter- 
national market for livestock. In the early 1960s, the value and 
number of exported livestock approximately doubled, and livestock 
soon surpassed bananas as Somalia's leading export. 

There were therefore some notable successes among Somalia's 
early development projects. The nation became nearly self-sufficient 
in sugar, and banana exports grew, albeit haltingly. Livestock ex- 
ports increased, and investments in roads and irrigation facilities 
resulted in some genuine improvements. 

But the 1960s also yielded great disillusionment. The country 
could not overcome its dependence on foreign assistance, even to 
meet its current budget. Moreover, imports of foreign grains in- 
creased rapidly, indicating that the agricultural sector was not meet- 
ing the needs of the growing urban population. The modern 


Somalia: A Country Study 

agricultural techniques of state farms had little influence on tradi- 
tional farming practices. Because of a boom in livestock exports 
from Hargeysa, cows, goats, and camels were becoming concen- 
trated in northern Somalia, much to the detriment of rangelands. 
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) foresaw the 
dire effects of the 1974 drought in a 1967 report that noted the se- 
vere range deterioration. Finally, and perhaps most important, 
many Somalis were enervated by the feeling that political incum- 
bents, through electoral manipulations, were squandering the na- 
tion's economic resources for their private benefit (see The Igaal 
Government, ch. 1). 

Scientific Socialism, 1970-75 

Mahammad Siad Barre legitimated his 1969 coup d'etat in terms 
of the national economic malaise. On October 20, 1970, the first 
anniversary of the coup, he announced: 

In our Revolution we believe that we have broken the 
chain of a consumer economy based on imports, and we 
are free to decide our destiny. And in order to realize 
the interests of the Somali people, their achievement of 
a better life, the full development of their potentialities 
and the fulfillment of their aspirations, we solemnly 
declare Somalia to be a Socialist State. 
Relying on Soviet advisers and a committed group of Italian- 
educated Somali "leftist" intellectuals, Siad Barre announced the 
1971-73 Three- Year Plan (see Siad Barre and Scientific Social- 
ism, ch. 1). The plan emphasized a higher standard of living for 
every Somali, jobs for all who sought work, and the eradication 
of capitalist exploitation. Agricultural "crash programs" and cre- 
ation of new manufacturing plants were the immediate results. 

Siad Barre quickly brought a substantial proportion of the modern 
economy under state control. The government nationalized banks, 
insurance companies, petroleum distribution firms, and the sugar- 
refining plant and created national agencies for construction materi- 
als and foodstuffs. Although the Somali neologism for socialism, 
hantiwadaag, could be translated as the "sharing of livestock, " camel 
herds were not nationalized, and Siad Barre reassured pastoral - 
ists that hantiwadaag would not affect their animals. To mollify 
international business, in 1972 Siad Barre announced a liberal in- 
vestment code. Because the modern economy was so small, na- 
tionalization was more showmanship than a radical change in the 

The creation of cooperatives soon became a cornerstone in build- 
ing a socialist economy. In 1973 the government decreed the Law 


Herd of cattle and flock of goats at watering hole north of Chisimayu; such 

animals represent a major Somali export. 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

on Cooperative Development, with most funds going into the 
agricultural sector. In the precoup years, agricultural programs had 
received less than 10 percent of total spending. By 1974 the figure 
was 29. 1 percent. The investment in cooperatives had limited long- 
term results, however. In Galole near Hargeysa, for example, a 
government team established a cooperative in 1973, and govern- 
ment funds helped purchase a tractor, a cooperative center, and 
a grain storage tank. Members received token salaries as well. But 
in July 1977, with the beginning of the Ogaden War, state involve- 
ment in Galole ended; by 1991 the cooperative was no longer in 

Cooperatives also aimed at the nomad, although on a smaller 
scale. The 1974-78 Development Plan allocated only 4.2 percent 
of the budgeted funds to livestock. Government officials argued 
that the scientific management of rangeland — the regeneration of 
grazing lands and the drilling of new water holes — would be pos- 
sible only under socialist cooperation. In the fourteen government- 
established cooperatives, each family received an exclusive area of 
200 to 300 hectares of grazing land; in times of drought, common 
land under reserve was to become available. The government com- 
mitted itself to providing educational and health services as well 
as serving as a marketing oudet for excess stock. Neither agricultural 
nor fishing cooperatives, however, proved economically profitable. 

Integrated agricultural development projects were somewhat 
more successful than the cooperatives. The Northwest Region 
Agricultural Development Project, for example, survived the 1980s. 
Building upon the bunding (creation of embankments to control 
the flow of water) done by the British in the 1950s and by the United 
States Agency for International Development (AID) in the 1960s, 
the World Bank (see Glossary) picked up the program in the 1970s 
and 1980s. Yields from bunded farms increased between 2.40 and 
13.74 quintals per hectare over the yields from unbunded farms. 
However, overall improvement in agricultural production was hard- 
ly noticeable at a macroeconomic level (see table 2, Appendix). 

Somalia's rural-based socialist programs attracted internation- 
al development agencies. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic 
Development (KFAED), AID, and the FAO participated first in 
the Northern Rangelands Development Project in 1977 and in the 
Central Rangelands Project in 1979. These projects called for rotat- 
ing grazing areas, using reserves, and creating new boreholes, but 
the drought of 1974 and political events undid most efforts. 

During 1974-75 a drought devastated the pastoral economy. 
Major General Husseen Kulmiye headed the National Drought 
Relief Committee, which sought relief aid from abroad, among 


The Economy 

other programs. By January 1975, China, the United States, the 
European Economic Community, the Soviet Union, Sweden, Swit- 
zerland, Sudan, Algeria, Yugoslavia, Yemen, and others had 
pledged 66,229 tons of grain, 1 , 155 tons of milk powder, and tons 
of other food products. Later that year, with aid from the Soviet 
Union, the government transported about 90,000 nomads from 
their hamlets to agricultural and fishing cooperatives in the south. 
The regime established new agricultural cooperatives at Dujuu- 
ma on the Jubba River (about 18,000 hectares), Kurtun Waarey 
near the Shabeelle River (about 6,000 hectares), and Sablaale north- 
west of Chisimayu (about 6,000 hectares). The KFAED and the 
World Bank supported irrigation projects in these cooperatives, 
in which corn, beans, peanuts, and rice were planted. Because the 
government provided seeds, water, management, health facilities, 
and schools, as well as workers' salaries, the farms were really state- 
owned farms rather than cooperatives. Essentially, they became 
havens for women and children because after the drought the men 
went off inland with whatever money they had accumulated to buy 
livestock to replenish their stock of animals. 

The government also established fishing cooperatives. Despite 
a long coastline and an estimated potential yield of 150,000 tons 
per year of all species of fish, in the early 1970s fishing accounted 
for less than 1 percent of Somalia's gross domestic product (GDP — 
see Glossary). In 1975 cooperatives were established at Eyl, a port 
in the Nugaal region; Cadale, a port 120 kilometers northeast of 
Mogadishu; and Baraawe. The Soviet Union supplied modern 
trawlers; when Soviet personnel left Somalia in 1978, Australia and 
Italy supported these fishing projects. Despite their potential and 
broad-based international support, these cooperatives failed to be- 
come profitable. 

Siad Barre emphasized the great economic successes of the so- 
cialist experiment, a claim that had some truth in the first five years 
of the revolution. In this period, the government reorganized the 
sole milk-processing plant to make it more productive; established 
tomato-canning, wheat flour, pasta, cigarette, and match facto- 
ries; opened a plant that manufactured cardboard boxes and poly- 
ethylene bags; and established several grain mills and a petroleum 
refinery. In addition, the state put into operation a meat-processing 
plant in Chisimayu, as well as a fish-processing factory in Laas 
Qpray northeast of Erigavo. The state worked to expand sugar oper- 
ations in Giohar and to build a new sugar-processing facility in 
Afgooye. In three of the four leading light industries — canned 
meats, milk, and textiles — there were increases in output between 
1969 and 1975. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Progress in the early socialist period was not uniform, however. 
The government heralded various programs in the transport, pack- 
aging, irrigation, drainage, fertilization, and spraying of the banana 
crop. Yet, despite the boom year of 1972, banana exports declined. 

The Socialist Revolution after 1975 

Popular enthusiasm for the revolution began to dissipate by the 
mid-1970s. Many officials had become corrupt, using their posi- 
tions for personal gain, and a number of ideologues had been purged 
from the administration as potential threats to their military su- 
periors. Perhaps most important, Siad Barre's regime was focus- 
ing its attention on the political goal of "liberating" the Ogaden 
(Ogaadeen) rather than on the economic goal of socialist transfor- 
mation. The Somali economy was hurt as much by these factors 
and by the economic cost of creating a large modern army as it 
was by the concurrent drought. Two economic trends from this 
period were noteworthy: increasing debt and the collapse of the 
small industrial sector. 

During the 1970s, foreign debt increased faster than export earn- 
ings. By the end of the decade, Somalia's debt of 4 billion shillings 
(for value of the shilling — see Glossary) equaled the earnings from 
seventy-five years' worth of banana exports (based on 1978 data). 
About one-third was owed to centrally planned economies (main- 
ly the Soviet Union, US$1 10 million; China, US$87.2 million; with 
small sums to Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic (East 
Germany)). Another one-third of the debt was owed to countries 
in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 
(OECD). Finally, one-third was owed to the Arab Fund for Eco- 
nomic and Social Development, US$34.7 million; and to mem- 
bers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries 
(OPEC) (principally Saudi Arabia, US$81 .9 million; United Arab 
Emirates, US$67.0 million; Kuwait, US$27.1 million; and smaller 
amounts to Iraq, Qatar, the OPEC special account, Libya, and 
Algeria, in that order). Many loans, especially from the Soviet 
Union, were, in effect, written off. Later, many loan repayments 
to OECD states were rescheduled. But thanks to the accumulated 
debt burden, by the 1980s the economy could not attract foreign 
capital, and virtually all international funds made available to Soma- 
lia in rescheduling agreements came with the provision that inter- 
national civil servants would monitor all expenditures. As a result 
of its international debt, therefore, Somalia lost control over its 
macroeconomic structure. 

A second ominous trend in the 1975-81 period was the decline of 
the manufacturing sector. Exports of manufactured goods were 


Camels at watering hole near Luuq on the Jubba River; camels remain a 

mainstay of tribal herders. 
Water pump directing water into a trough for communal use 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 



Somalia: A Country Study 

negligible when the 1969 coup occurred; by the mid-1970s, 
manufactured goods constituted 20 percent of total exports. By 
1978, as a consequence of the Ogaden War, such exports were 
almost nonexistent. Production likewise suffered. In 1969 Soma- 
lia refined 47,000 tons of sugar; by 1980 the figure was 29,100 tons 
(all figures are for fiscal year (FY) — see Glossary). In 1975 the coun- 
try produced 14.4 million cans of meat and 2,220 tons of canned 
fish. In 1979 it produced 1.5 million cans of meat and a negligible 
amount of canned fish. Textile output rose over the period. The 
only material produced, however, was a coarse fabric sold to rural 
people (and worn by the president) at less than cost. In milk, pas- 
ta, packaging materials, cigarettes, and matches, the trend was 
downward in the second half of the 1970s. 

From Scientific Socialism to "IMF-ism," 1981-90 

Its socialist program in disarray and its alliance with the Soviet 
Union lost in the wake of the 1977-78 Ogaden War, Somalia once 
again turned to the West (see Relations with the United States, 
Other Foreign Relations, ch. 4; Foreign Military Assistance, ch. 
5). Like most countries devastated by debt in the late 1970s, Somalia 
could rely only on the nostrums of the IMF and its program of 
structural adjustment. 

In February 1980, a standby macroeconomic policy agreement 
with the IMF was signed, but not implemented. The standby agree- 
ments of July 1981 and July 1982 were completed in July 1982 and 
January 1984, respectively. To meet IMF standards, the govern- 
ment terminated its policy of acting as the last-resort employer of 
all secondary school graduates and abolished its monopoly on grain 
marketing. The government then prepared a medium- term recovery 
program consisting of a public investment program for 1984-86 
and a phased program of policy reforms. Because the International 
Development Association (IDA) (see World Bank — Glossary) con- 
sidered this program too ambitious, the government scaled down 
its projects, most notably the construction of the Baardheere Dam, 
which AID had advised against. The government abandoned its 
first reform program in 1984. In March 1984, the government 
signed a letter of intent accepting the terms of a new US$183 mil- 
lion IMF extended credit facility to run for three years. In a Somali 
Council of Ministers meeting in April, however, this agreement 
was canceled by one vote, as the soldier-ministers chafed at the 
proposed 60 percent cut in the military budget. The agreement 
also called for a further devaluation of the shilling and reductions 
in government personnel. 


The Economy 

A new crisis hit Somalia in June 1983. The Saudi Arabian gov- 
ernnment decided to stop importing Somali cattle, and this ban soon 
was expanded to include sheep and goats. Saudi officials claimed 
that rinderpest had been detected in Somali livestock, making them 
unsafe. Cynics pointed out that Saudi businessmen recently had 
invested in Australian ranches and were seeking to carve out an 
export market for their product. In any event, the ban created a 
large budget deficit, and arrears on debt service started to accumu- 
late. A major obstacle to expanding livestock and other exports was 
Somalia's lack of communications infrastructure: good roads and 
shipping facilities as well as effective telecommunications and postal 
services. Lack of banking facilities also posed a problem. Somalia 
could not easily avoid the medicine of structural adjustment. 

In March 1985, in negotiations with the Paris Club (the infor- 
mal name for a consortium of eighteen Western creditor countries), 
Somalia's debt service schedule was restructured, and the govern- 
ment adopted a reform program that included a devaluation and 
the establishment of a free market for foreign exchange for most 
private transactions (see table 3, Appendix). In November 1985, 
in conjunction with the Consultative Group of Aid Donors, a tech- 
nical body of the Paris Club, the government presented its Na- 
tional Development Strategy and Programme with a revised 
three-year investment program. Western aid officials criticized this 
program as too ambitious. In June 1986, the government negotiated 
an agricultural sector adjustment program with IDA. In Septem- 
ber 1986, a foreign exchange auction system was initiated, but its 
operation encountered severe difficulties because of its complete 
dependence on external aid. Many exchange rates applicable to 
different types of transactions consequently came into existence. 

AID prepared a second-stage project report in 1986 that renewed 
the call for privatization. It praised the government for permitting 
the free importation of petroleum products, but chided the Soma- 
lis for not yet allowing the free marketing of hides and skins. AID 
put great pressure on the government, especially by means of lob- 
byists, to take action on legislation to permit private banking. To 
encourage the private sector further, AID was prepared to fund 
the Somali Chamber of Commerce if the Somali government would 
allow it to become an independent body. The 1986 report went 
beyond privatization by calling for means of improving the govern- 
ment 's revenue collection and budgetary control systems. Build- 
ing a government capable of collecting taxes, making policy reforms, 
and addressing fiscal problems became the new focus. Along these 
lines, AID encouraged the elimination of civil service jobs. As of 
1985, although 5,000 civil servants had been dismissed, AID felt 


Somalia: A Country Study 

that 80 percent of the civil service was still redundant. AID offi- 
cials, however, urged pay raises for those in useful jobs. 

Somalia's Five- Year Plan for 1987-91 largely reflected the in- 
ternational pressures and incentives of the IMF and AID. Privati- 
zation was written into the plan, as were development projects that 
were smaller in scale and more easily implemented. By 1988 the 
government had announced implementation of many IMF- and 
AID-encouraged structural adjustment policies. In regard to for- 
eign exchange, the government had taken many intermediate steps 
that would lead to the merger of the pegged and market rates. As 
for banking, legislation had been enacted allowing private banks 
to operate. In public finance, the government had reduced its deficit 
from 10 to 7 percent of GDP, as had been advised, but ac- 
knowledged that the increased taxes on fuel, rent, and sales had 
been only partially implemented. A value-added tax on fuel im- 
ports remained under consideration, but the tax on rental income 
had been increased and the sales tax raised from 5 to 10 percent. 
The government continued to procrastinate concerning public en- 
terprises, holding only informal discussion of plans to liquidate un- 
profitable enterprises. 

The IMF corrected some of the worst abuses of the socialist ex- 
periment. With the devaluation of the shilling, the real cost of for- 
eign grain became apparent to consumers, and the relative price 
of domestic grain rose. Rectifying prices induced a 13.5 percent 
increase in agricultural output between 1983 and 1985. Inflation 
was tamed as well, falling from an annual rate of 59 percent in 
1980 to 36 percent in 1986. World Bank officials used these data 
to publicize the Somali success in structural adjustment. 

The overall picture was not that encouraging, however. Manufac- 
turing output declined, registering a drop of 0.5 percent per an- 
num from 1980 to 1987. Exports decreased by 16.3 percent per 
annum from 1979 to 1986. Moreover, the 0.8 percent rise in GDP 
per annum from 1979 to 1986 did not keep up with population 
growth. World Bank estimates put Somalia's 1989 gross national 
product (GNP— see Glossary) at US$1,035 million, or US$170 per 
person, and further estimated that between 1980 and 1989 real GNP 
per person had declined at 1.7 percent per year. 

In the period from 1987 to 1989, the economic results of agricul- 
tural production were mixed. Although corn, sorghum, and sugar- 
cane were principal crops, livestock and bananas remained major 
exports (see table 4, Appendix; Foreign Trade, this ch.). The value 
of livestock and banana exports in 1989 (the latest year for which 
data were available in mid- 1992) was US$26 million and US$25 
million, respectively. Livestock, consisting primarily of camels, 



Somalia: A Country Study 

cattle, goats, and sheep, served several purposes. The animals 
provided milk and meat for domestic consumption, and livestock, 
hides, and skins for export (see table 5; table 6, Appendix). 

As a result of the civil war in many areas, the economy deterio- 
rated rapidly in 1989 and 1990. Previously, livestock exports from 
northern Somalia represented nearly 80 percent of foreign currency 
earned, but these exports came to a virtual halt in 1989. Shortages 
of most commodities, including food, fuel, medicines, and water, 
occurred virtually countrywide. Following the fall of the Siad Barre 
regime in late January 1991, the situation failed to improve be- 
cause clan warfare intensified. Statistical data were minimal, 
however, for the period from 1990 onward. 

Natural Resources and Economic Infrastructure 

Somalia is not well-endowed with natural resources that can be 
profitably marketed internationally, and at independence the eco- 
nomic infrastructure was poorly developed. Throughout all three 
eras in postindependence Somalia, officials had sought, with mixed 
results, to develop the economic infrastructure. 


Estimates vary, but from 46 to 56 percent of Somalia's land area 
can be considered permanent pasture. About 14 percent is classi- 
fied as forest. Approximately 13 percent is suitable for cultivation, 
but most of that area would require additional investments in wells 
and roads for it to be usable. The remaining land is not economi- 
cally exploitable. In the highlands around Hargeysa, relatively high 
rainfall has raised the organic content in the sandy calcareous soils 
characteristic of the northern plains, and this soil has supported 
some dry farming. South of Hargeysa begins the Haud, whose red 
calcareous soils continue into the Ethiopian Ogaden. This soil sup- 
ports vegetation ideal for camel grazing. To the east of the Haud 
is the Mudug Plain, leading to the Indian Ocean coast; this region, 
too, supports a pastoral economy. The area between the Jubba and 
Shabeelle rivers has soils varying from reddish to dark clays, with 
some alluvial deposits and fine black soil. This is the area of plan- 
tation agriculture and subsistence agropastoralism. 

Practices concerning land rights varied from rural to urban areas. 
In precolonial times, traditional claims and interclan bargaining 
were used to establish land rights. A small market for land, espe- 
cially in the plantation areas of the south, developed in the coloni- 
al period and into the first decade of independence. The socialist 
regime sought to block land sales and tried to lease all privately 
owned land to cooperatives as concessions. Despite the government's 


The Economy 

efforts, a de facto land market developed in urban areas; in the 
bush, the traditional rights of clans were maintained. 

The Siad Barre regime also took action regarding the water sys- 
tem. In northern Somalia from 1988 to 1991, the government de- 
stroyed almost all pumping systems in municipal areas controlled 
by the Somali National Movement (SNM) or, failing that, stole 
the equipment. In rural areas, the government poisoned the wells 
by either inserting animal carcasses or engine blocks that leaked 
battery acid. As a result, northern Somalis had to rely on older 
gravity water systems, use poor quality water, or buy expensive 
water. Following the declaration of the independent Republic of 
Somaliland in the north in May 1991 , the government of the repub- 
lic began ongoing efforts to reconstruct the water system. 

In the south, in the late 1980s and thereafter, as a result of war 
damage and anarchy, the water situation in the towns tended to 
resemble that in the north. Few pumping systems were operation- 
al in mid- 1992. Conditions in rural areas varied. Many villages 
had at least one borehole from which poor quality water could be 
obtained in buckets; pumps generally were nonfunctioning. Somalis 
who lived near the Jubba or Shabeelle rivers could obtain their water 
directly from the river. 


Somalia relied principally on domestic wood and charcoal and 
on imported petroleum to meet its energy needs. Attempts to har- 
ness the power of the Jubba River by constructing the proposed 
Baardheere Dam had not come to fruition as of early 1992. Elec- 
trical utilities had been state owned since 1970, when foreign-owned 
enterprises were nationalized. Throughout the country, about eighty 
different oil-fired thermal and diesel power plants relied on imported 
petroleum. With aid from Finland, new plants were constructed 
in the Chisimayu and Baidoa areas in the mid-1980s. 

Somalia relied on foreign donors (first the Soviet Union and then 
Saudi Arabia) to meet its petroleum needs. In the late 1970s, Iraq 
helped Somalia build a refinery at Jasiira, northeast of Baraawe, 
that had a capacity of 10,000 barrels per day. But when the Iran- 
Iraq War broke out in 1980, deliveries were suspended, and Somalia 
again required refined oil imports. As of mid- 1989, Somalia's 
domestic requirements were again being met by this refinery, but 
deliveries of Iraqi crude oil were erratic. In May 1989, Somalia 
signed an agreement with the Industrial Export, Import, and For- 
eign Trade Company of Romania by which the company was to 
construct an oil refinery on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The project 
was to cost US$500 million and result in a refining capacity of 


Somalia: A Country Study 

200,000 barrels per day. Because of events in Romania and Soma- 
lia, the refinery project had not materialized as of mid- 1992. 

Throughout the 1980s, various international oil companies ex- 
plored for oil and natural gas deposits in Somalia. In October 1991, 
the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme 
announced the results of its hydrocarbon study in the countries bor- 
dering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The study indicated the 
potential for oil and gas in northern Somalia was good. In view 
of the civil war in Somalia following the fall of Siad Barre, however, 
various foreign oil exploration plans were canceled. 

A successful innovation was the completion of a wind energy 
utilization project. Four wind turbines, each rated at 50 kilowatts, 
were embedded in the Mogadishu electrical grid. In 1988 these 
turbines produced 699,420 kilowatt-hours of energy. Total elec- 
tric energy produced in 1988, the latest year for which figures were 
available in mid- 1992, was 257 million kilowatt-hours. Five self- 
contained wind energy conversion systems in rural centers also were 
planned, but as of May 1992 there was no information that these 
had been built. 


In 1988 the total expenditure for transportation and communi- 
cations was US$57.8 million. Nearly 55 percent of this amount 
was for new infrastructure; 28 percent was for rehabilitation and 
maintenance of existing infrastructure. This activity must be un- 
derstood in the context of the ongoing civil war in Somalia; much 
of the infrastructure, particularly bridges in the north, either had 
deteriorated or been destroyed as a result of the fighting. As of 
mid- 1992, no systematic study existed of the infrastructural costs 
of the civil war. 

At independence, Somalia inherited a poorly developed trans- 
portation system consisting of a few paved roads in the more popu- 
lated areas in the south and northwest, four undeveloped ports 
equipped only with lighterage facilities, and a handful of usable 
airstrips (see fig. 6). During the next three decades, some improve- 
ment was made with the help of substantial foreign aid. By 1990 
all-weather roads connected most of the important towns and linked 
the northern and southern parts of the country. Three ports had 
been substantially improved, eight airports had paved runways, 
and regular domestic air service also was available. But in mid- 1992, 
the country still lacked the necessary highway infrastructure to open 
up undeveloped areas or to link isolated regions, and shipping had 
come to a virtual halt because of the security situation. 


The Economy 

In 1990 Somalia had more than 21,000 kilometers of roads, of 
which about 2,600 kilometers were paved, 2,900 kilometers were 
gravel, and the remainder were improved earth. The country's prin- 
cipal highway was a 1 , 200-kilometer two-lane paved road that ran 
from Chisimayu in the south through Mogadishu to Hargeysa in 
the north. North of Mogadishu, this route ran inland, roughly 
paralleling the border with Ethiopia; a 100-kilometer spur ran to 
the Gulf of Aden at Berbera. By early 1992, much of this road, 
especially the northern part between Hargeysa and Berbera, was 
relatively unsafe because of land mines. Somalia's 1988 plan provid- 
ed for another connection from this main route to Bender Cassim 
on the Gulf of Aden. Somalia had only one paved road that ex- 
tended from north of Mogadishu to Ethopia; all other links to neigh- 
boring countries were dirt trails impassable in rainy weather. 

Four ports handled almost all of Somalia's foreign trade. Ber- 
bera, Mogadishu, and Chisimayu were deepwater ports protected 
by breakwaters. Merca, just south of Mogadishu, was a lighter- 
age port that required ships to anchor offshore in open roadsteads 
while loading and unloading. Mogadishu was the principal port 
of entry for most general cargo. Berbera received general cargo 
for the northern part of the country and handled much of the na- 
tion's livestock exports. United States aid enabled the doubling of 
the berths at the port of Berbera and the deepening of the harbor, 
completed in 1985 at a cost of US$37.5 million. Maydh, north- 
west of Erigavo, was the only other and much smaller northern 
port. Chisimayu 's main function was the export of bananas and 
meat; the meat was processed and packed at the port. The United 
States also financed the US$42 million development of Chisimayu 
port in the latter half of the 1980s. Merca was an export point for 
bananas. In 1986 the Somali Ports Authority launched a modern- 
ization project for all ports, with concentration on Mogadishu. The 
cost was estimated at US$24.4 million, of which the IDA provid- 
ed US$22.6 million as a credit. 

Mogadishu International Airport was the nation's principal air- 
field; in the 1980s, a runway was extended to 4,500 meters (the 
runway was one of Africa's longest) with United States financial 
aid. The airport was further expanded in 1989 by Italy's contri- 
bution from its emergency aid fund for Africa. Only Mogadishu 
offered international flights. Somali Airlines, the nation's flag car- 
rier, was partially owned by Alitalia, the Italian national airline. 
Somali Airlines in 1989 replaced its fleet of five aging Boeing 707s 
with one Airbus 310, making it a one-plane international airline. 
In 1990 domestic service linked Mogadishu with Berbera and six 
other Somali cities; flights were scheduled at least once a week. 


Figure 6. Transportation System, 1992 

As of April 1992, Somali Airlines had no scheduled flights, domestic 
or international, and no other regular flights existed. 


Somalia's telecommunications system was rudimentary. In 1991 
a ground satellite station linked with the International Telecom- 
munications Satellite Organization's (Intelsat) Indian Ocean satel- 
lite provided television, telephone, and data links with the rest 
of the world. A second ground satellite station, part of the Arab 


The Economy 

Organization for Space Communications (Arabsat), was under con- 
struction. It was not known in May 1992 whether any of these sys- 
tems were operative. To improve the telecommunications system 
between Somalia and European and Persian Gulf countries, the 
European Development Fund in 1988 provided 5 million Europe- 
an currency units (ECUs). Japan contributed a further US$83 mil- 
lion in 1988 for a telecommunications project to be completed in 
1991; implementation was delayed, however, by the anarchy 
prevailing after the fall of Siad Barre. 

Domestic communications were poor. The civil war in 1988 de- 
stroyed the Hargeysa radio station, but the SNM in mid- 1992 con- 
tinued to broadcast daily on a frequency modulation (FM) station 
near Hargeysa renamed the Voice of the Republic of Somaliland. 
Two factions of the United Somali Congress (USC) in early 1992 
reportedly had radio transmitters in the south with regular trans- 
missions. The entire country in 1990 had only 17,000 telephones, 
of which 14,000 were in the capital. In late 1992, however, the 
telephone system was virtually inoperative. 

The "Real" Somali Economy in the 1980s 

The Somali economy in the 1980s, when viewed in standard eco- 
nomic terms, was characterized by minimal economic reform and 
declining GDP per capita. But the macroeconomic perspectives, 
which were based on questionable data, presented an unreliable 
picture of the actual Somali economy. In fact, the macroeconomic 
figures used by the IMF and the World Bank would lead one to 
wonder how any Somalis could have physically survived the re- 
cent years of economic crisis. Yet visitors to Somalia, although dis- 
tressed by the civil war and the wanton killing, observed a relatively 
well-fed population up until the 1991-92 drought. Clearly a Somali 
economy existed outside the realm of international data collection. 
Examination of what has been called Somalia's "unconvention- 
al" economy allows a better appreciation of how the Somali econ- 
omy actually worked. 

Export of Labor 

Somalia was an exporter of labor to other members of the League 
of Arab States (Arab League), and Somali citizens received remit- 
tances from these workers. These remittances constituted the larg- 
est source of foreign exchange in the economy. Based on an as- 
sumption of 165,000 Somali overseas workers, with an average an- 
nual wage of US$6,150, one-third of which was being remitted, 
one economist has calculated that more than US$330 million was 
being remitted annually. This figure represented fifteen times the 


Somalia: A Country Study 

sum of Somalia-based yearly wages and nearly 40 percent of total 
GNP, including remittances. The official remittance figure was 
US$30 million, the amount channeled through banks. Most un- 
official remittances — in the form of foreign exchange and house- 
hold goods and appliances sent home from abroad — went to urban 
traders. This fact explains the apparent abundance of supplies in 
Somali cities, which, based on the foreign exchange estimates from 
official sources, would not have been possible. A large portion of 
the remittances went to supply arms to the rural guerrillas who 
toppled the government in January 1991 (see Sources of Opposi- 
tion, ch. 5). 

Export of Livestock 

As the macroeconomic data made clear, Somalia was primarily 
an exporter of livestock to the Arab states. The macroeconomic 
data did not make clear the proportions in which the foreign ex- 
change earnings from livestock exports went to the government, 
based on the official exchange rate of those recorded sales, and to 
the traders and herders themselves, based on the difference between 
the official and informal exchange rates plus all revenues from un- 
officially recorded sales. A system known as franco valuta (see Glos- 
sary) enabled livestock middlemen to hoard a considerable foreign 
exchange surplus. In the livestock export sector, traders had to give 
the government only 40 percent of their foreign exchange earn- 
ings; the traders could import anything they wished with the re- 
maining foreign exchange. Thus, imports were substantial amid 
data of collapse. One needed only to be connected to a trading fam- 
ily to enjoy massive increases in consumption during the 1980s. 
In the livestock export system, franco valuta was officially discon- 
tinued as a result of the IMF structural adjustment program, but 
in practice franco valuta continued to be observed. 

In the 1970s, northern trading families used their profits to buy 
real estate, much of it in Mogadishu. In the 1980s, they helped 
subsidize the rebels fighting the government of Siad Barre. 

Rural Subsistence Sector 

Somalia's rural subsistence sector produced sufficient grain and 
animal products (mostly milk) to sustain the country's growing 
population, including its massive refugee population. According 
to economist Vali Jamal, data on the subsistence sector underesti- 
mated the amount of milk and grain produced. The official 1978 
estimate of milk production was 451.4 million liters; by using al- 
ternate data (for example, statistics on lactating animals from an 
anthropology study, consumption surveys, and interviews with 


The Economy 

nomads), Jamal estimated 2.92 billion liters of production, 6.5 times 
the official estimate. Taking into account only this change in milk 
production would raise GDP by 68 percent, making Somalia the 
forty-first rather than the eighth poorest country in the world, with 
an average annual per capita income of US$406. 

Jamal' s data showed a 58 percent increase in grain production 
between 1972-74 and 1984. Production of sorghum and corn 
reached a high of an estimated 260,000 tons and 382,000 tons, 
respectively, in 1985, before declining in the period 1987-89. Grain 
imports increased sixfold, however, between the early 1970s and 
1985; the increase was largely caused by the refugee influx and 
the added imports needed to fill the food gap. After 1980 food 
production increased but imports continued, primarily as a result 
of food aid. Governments did not cut off food aid although the need 
for it steadily receded. Despite donor objectives, most of the im- 
ports went to urban shops rather than rural refugee camps. 

Often missed by macroeconomic analyses was the vibrant 
agropastoralist sector of the southern interriverine area. Families 
mixed pastoralism — the raising of goats and sheep, and sometimes 
camels — with grain production. The family unit was highly versa- 
tile, and the division of labor within it changed depending on the 
season and the amount of rainfall. During a drought when wom- 
en were obliged to trek for days in search of water, men tended 
the household and crops. When water was abundant, women main- 
tained the household, and the men concentrated on the livestock. 

Trade between the pastoralist and agropastoralist sectors has been 
greater than standard models of the Somali GNP have assumed. 
Agropastoralists accumulated small grain surpluses in the 1980s, 
and bartered this grain to pastoralists in exchange for milk. The 
agropastoralists received more value from this trade than by sell- 
ing their grain directly to the government because government 
prices for grain were lower than the growers' costs. IMF agree- 
ments with the government repealed price limits on the sale of grain; 
the consequences of this agreement for trade between pastoralists 
and agropastoralists had not been reported as of mid- 1992. 

One of the great agricultural success stories of privatization caused 
great embarrassment to the IMF. Qat (also spelled "kat," Catha 
edulis) is a mildly stimulating narcotic; many Somalis chew the qat 
leaf during leisure time. Qat is grown in the Ethiopian highlands 
and in Kenya and is transported through Somalia. In the late 1960s, 
farmers near Hargeysa began growing it. During the drought of 
the 1970s, the qat plants survived and their cultivators made hand- 
some profits. Investment in qat plants soared in the 1980s. Sales 
of qat enabled farmers to stay ahead of inflation during a time when 


Somalia: A Country Study 

prices for other crops fell. Many farmers used their profits to rent 
tractors and to hire day laborers; doing so enabled them to increase 
food production while continuing to grow qat. The large surplus 
income going to qat farmers created a free market in land, despite 
national laws prohibiting land sales. The IMF never mentioned 
this economic success as part of the positive results of its program. 
The government believed that the production of qat was cutting 
into grain production; the data of political scientist Abdi Ismail 
Samatar, however, indicates that farmers producing qat grew more 
grain than those who did not produce qat. The government also 
believed that qat was harmful because it was making the general 
population drug-dependent. The Siad Barre regime hence banned 
qat production, and in 1984 qat fields were destroyed by govern- 
ment teams. Nevertheless, the qat story of the 1980s demonstrat- 
ed the vibrancy of the Somali economy outside the regulatory 
regimes of the government and the IMF. 

Urban Subsistence and Government Employment 

The Somali government and its officials collected grants and 
bribes from foreign governments and taxes on internal trade that 
provided substantial wealth to the ruling elite. As of July 1991, 
domestic trade in the south for the most part had been disrupted. 
Only small quantities of goods such as fruit, sugarcane, and char- 
coal moved from the villages to the towns, in return for cornmeal 
and, since 1988, guns and ammunition. At a national level, armed 
trucks traveled from Jilib, on the Jubba River, or Chisimayu, to 
Mogadishu, carrying from the Jubba River area agricultural 
products such as mangoes and sesame and returning with corn, 
wheat, refined sugar, and diesel fuel. International trade by sea 
was at a virtual standstill, but goods were smuggled across the bor- 
der with Kenya in return for qat primarily. In the north at the 
same period, the anarchic situation since 1988 had severely cur- 
tailed agricultural trade, particularly livestock exports. In addition, 
those farmers in areas where planting was potentially feasible in 
1991, such as around Erigavo and Boorama, northwest of Har- 
geysa, lacked sorghum, corn, and vegetable seeds, as well as tools, 
and were hindered by the presence of minefields in many locations. 
Internationally, goods were smuggled across the Ethiopian border, 
largely in exchange for qat. 

The funds collected in the past on internal trade also provided 
below-subsistence wages to a number of urban Somalis because for 
much of the 1980s the government served as the employer of last 
resort of all secondary- school graduates. Using these revenues, the 
government also sustained an army that was in continual warfare 


Camel caravan transporting goods in northern Somalia 
between Hargeysa and Berbera 
Truck loaded with passengers and household goods 
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

beginning in 1977, first against Ethiopia, and then against an in- 
ternal guerrilla movement. 

Largely as a result of structural adjustment in the latter half of 
the 1980s, government employment was not lucrative at face value. 
A family of six needed an estimated 6,990 shillings monthly for 
food, clothing, rent, fuel, light, and water. The highest civil service 
salary was 2,000 shillings per month, of which 525 shillings was 
deducted for taxes and other charges. The highest take-home pay, 
including allowances, in government was about 2,875 shillings. 

Urban wages that were inadequate to address basic human needs 
might lead an analyst to expect near- starvation in urban Somalia. 
However, a 1984-85 household survey in Mogadishu reported that 
only 17 percent of the city's families lived below the poverty thresh- 
old. A November 1986 study in the Waaberi district of Mogadishu 
found only 7 percent had incomes below the poverty line. Infor- 
mal observations of urban life in Somalia reported in the 1980s 
concurred that the population appeared well-fed. 

The puzzle of low government wages coupled with a reasonable 
urban standard of living can be solved by examining the survival 
strategies of urban families. In the potential urban labor force of 
300,000 to 360,000 people, there were only 90,282 wage earners, 
which suggested that government employment was only one part 
of a family survival strategy. Many families had one member work- 
ing for the government, not so much for the salary, but for the 
access to other officials that enabled the family to engage in quasi- 
legal trading activities. Remittances from overseas prevented star- 
vation for some families. Many urban families had members who 
were livestock traders and through franco valuta had access to for- 
eign exchange. Many government workers prospered on bribery 
from the profiteers in the so-called gray economy. Other govern- 
ment workers could obtain "letters of credit" (the right to draw 
funds from government-held foreign exchange accounts) allowing 
them to import goods for sale and for family use. Still other civil 
servants moonlighted for international agencies, receiving valua- 
ble foreign currency for their efforts. These strategies were excluded 
from most macroeconomic assessments. 

Undeveloped Sectors 

Plantation Economy 

In the early 1990s, the plantation economy was undeveloped, 
even for bananas, which remained Somalia's principal cash crop 
and second most important export, after livestock. Because of 
government taxation of exports, this sector had been in decline in 


The Economy 

the early 1980s. In 1983 the government National Banana Board 
formed a joint venture with an Italian company to create Somal- 
fruit. The higher producer prices, increased input availability, and 
improved marketing and shipping facilities resulted in a 180 per- 
cent increase in banana production from 60,000 tons in 1980 to 
108,000 tons in 1987. By 1986 banana exports accounted for 13 
percent of total exports, up from just over 1 percent in 1982 (see 
Foreign Trade, this ch.). 


Somalia's mineral sector was of minuscule value in the overall 
Somali economy (in 1988 it represented only 0.3 percent of GDP; 
see table 7, Appendix). There was some production of salt with 
solar evaporation methods, mining of meerschaum (sepiolite) in 
the Galguduud Region, mining of limestone for cement in the Ber- 
bera and Baardheere areas, and partial exploitation of some of the 
world's largest deposits of gyp sum- anhydrite near Berbera, and 
of quartz and piezoquartz (useful for electronics). Somalia also has 
some large uranium deposits in the Galguduud and Bay regions, 
and in 1984 work began to develop them. In the Bay Region, there 
are also large iron ore deposits. The development plan in 1986 
reported that results of natural gas exploration in Afgooye near 
Mogadishu were negative, but indications of favorable oil and gas 
resources in the country persisted (see Energy, this ch.). Results 
of testing for gold in the Ceelbuur area in Galguduud Region and 
Arabsiyo area near Hargeysa had not been published as of 
mid- 1992. 


Nearly 14 percent of Somalia's land area was covered by forest 
in 1991. Frankincense and myrrh, both forest products, generat- 
ed some foreign exchange; for example, in 1988 myrrh exports were 
valued at almost 253 million shillings. A government parastatal 
in 1991 no longer had monopoly rights on the sale of frankincense 
and myrrh, but data on sales since privatization were not availa- 
ble. Savanna trees had been Somalia's principal source of fuel, but 
desertification had rapidly eroded this fuel source, especially be- 
cause refugees from the Ogaden War had foraged the bush in the 
vicinity of refugee camps for fuel. The government's 1988 develop- 
ment report stated that its sand dune stabilization project on the 
southern coast remained active: 265 hectares of a planned 336 hect- 
ares had been treated. Furthermore, thirty-nine range reserve sites 
and thirty-six forestry plantation sites had been established. For- 
estry amounted to about 6 percent of the GDP. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

In part because Somalia has 3,025 kilometers of coastline, fish- 
ing was a sector with excellent economic potential. Considerable 
attention had been paid to this sector, especially since the 1974 
drought, when 15,000 nomads were resettled in fishing coopera- 
tives. Data in the latter half of the 1980s showed improvement in 
the fishing industry. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 
of total tons of fish caught and processed rose from 16,900 in 1986 
to 18,200 in 1988, an increase that resulted from the development 
of a national fishing fleet. Yet fishing remained a largely unexploited 
sector, contributing less than 1 percent of GDP in 1990. 


Manufacturing achieved some success in the early 1970s, and 
was primarily based on processing of agricultural products. In 1986 
the government planned to bring its sugar- and milk-processing 
plants up to full production, to add a new cement factory in Ber- 
bera, and to contract with an Italian firm to operate its urea facto- 
ry, which was producing at less than 30 percent of capacity. In 
1989 a hides- and skins-processing plant in Mogadishu was com- 
pleted with Italian government financing. Despite this activity, 
manufacturing did not respond to IMF incentives as well as agricul- 
ture had. In 1988 there was a decline of 4.9 percent in produc- 
tion. The decline followed a 5 percent increase in 1987. The 
government blamed the decline on shortages of inputs and spare 
parts and on poor management. By 1990 manufacturing had all 
but ceased to play a significant role in the economy, contributing 
only about 5 percent of GDP. 

Foreign Trade 

Somalia's major exports consisted of agricultural raw materials 
and food products. Livestock was the principal export, with sheep 
and goats representing the leading categories, followed by cattle 
and camels. Banana exports rose sharply in the 1980s and by 1986 
occupied second place, followed in descending order by hides and 
skins, fish and fish products, and myrrh (see table 8, Appendix). 

The largest single import was food, with 1986 food imports 
reflecting the effects of the drought being experienced in the area 
(see table 9, Appendix). Transportation equipment was in second 
place among imports, followed by nonelectrical machinery, mineral 
fuels, cement and building materials, and iron and steel. 

In 1990 Italy was the leading importer of Somali goods, having 
narrowly replaced Saudi Arabia. Other Arab states, such as Yemen 


The Economy 

and the United Arab Emirates, were also important customers for 
Somali products. In 1990 Italy was the primary country of origin 
for goods imported into Somalia, with other nations such as Nor- 
way, Bahrain, and Britain distant sources of imports. Somalia con- 
sistently experienced an overall negative trade balance, which 
contributed to its balance of payments deficit (see table 10, Ap- 

In summary, with the 1991 overthrow of Siad Barre's govern- 
ment, Somalia faced a new era. Past economic experience had 
taught valuable lessons. First, the Somali people have for millen- 
nia been able to survive and even prosper in a harsh environment, 
whether it be natural or political. Second, grand economic strate- 
gies, whether from Benito Mussolini, Karl Marx, or the IMF, have 
not provided Somalia with a means to live beyond the subsistence 
level. Third, the handful of successful projects in the colonial, post- 
independence, socialist, and IMF-led economies suggest that a non- 
doctrinaire combination of approaches could promote a richer 

* * * 

Sources on the Somali economy remain scarce. The most per- 
ceptive study of the economy is a journal article by Vali Jamal, 
"Somalia: Understanding an Unconventional Economy." Jamal 
has worked in Somalia as part of an International Labour Organi- 
sation team that published Economic Transformation in a Socialist Frame- 
work. Two books written in the 1 980s provide excellent background 
information and interpretation. Abdi Ismail Samatar's The State 
and Rural Transformation in Northern Somalia, 1884-1986 focuses on 
government economic policy, largely as it has affected the north- 
ern region. Garth Massey's Subsistence and Change: Lessons of 
Agropastoralism in Somalia provides an insightful and carefully 
researched examination of the agropastoral economy in the inter- 
riverine area. David Laitin and Said Samatar have written a chapter 
on the economy in their text, Somalia: Nation in Search of a State, which 
forms the basis of the analysis in this chapter. Statistical data are 
available in various publications of the Ministry of National Plan- 
ning and Jubba Valley Development: Somalia in Figures; Annual De- 
velopment Plan, 1986; National Accounts Aggregates, 1977-1988; and 
Performance of the Somali Economy, 1988. Further data for this chap- 
ter have been culled from Ravi Gulhati's The Making of Economic 
Policy in Africa and the World Bank's World Development Report. (For 
further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.) 


Statue of Sayyid Mahammad Abdille Hasan, the national hero of 
Somalia, in Mogadishu 

IN JANUARY 1991, a bloody rebellion that had begun in 1988 
finally succeeded in ending the twenty-one-year authoritarian re- 
gime of President Mahammad Siad Barre. The civil war had taken 
more than 50,000 civilian lives and had left the capital, Mogadishu, 
in shambles. Many other cities and towns also were in ruins, and 
hundreds of thousands of Somalis had fled to neighboring coun- 
tries as refugees. 

Although the major clans had been united in their opposition 
to Siad Barre, their leaders had no common political vision of Soma- 
lia's future. Consequently, civil strife continued at a reduced level 
after Siad Barre was deposed. The dominant faction in the north, 
the Somali National Movement (SNM), refused to accept the 
legitimacy of the provisional government established by the Unit- 
ed Somali Congress (USC). Responding to widespread popular 
resentment of the central government, in June 1991 the SNM 
declared an independent Republic of Somaliland in the region that 
had constituted the British Somaliland before independence and 
unification with the former colony of Italian Somaliland in 1960. 

The legacy Siad Barre left of a country devastated by civil war 
and riven by intense clan rivalries contrasted starkly with the fu- 
ture he had envisaged for Somalia when he took power in a mili- 
tary coup d'etat in October 1969. Siad Barre, at the time a major 
general and commander of the army, and his fellow officers over- 
threw an elected civilian government that had become widely per- 
ceived as corrupt and incompetent. Siad Barre was determined to 
implement policies to benefit the country economically and social- 
ly and to diminish the political influence of the clans. During his 
regime's early years, Somalia experienced considerable economic 
development, and efforts were made to replace clan loyalty with 
national pride. 

However, Siad Barre proved susceptible to a cult of personality 
and over the years grew increasingly intolerant of criticism. Fol- 
lowing his army's disastrous 1978 defeat in Ethiopia, Siad Barre' s 
rule became more authoritarian and arbitrary, which only caused 
opposition to his regime to increase. Forsaking appeals to nation- 
alism, Siad Barre tried to maintain control by exploiting historical 
clan animosities and by relying more and more on the loyalty of 
his own family and clan. By the mid-1980s, the opposition to Siad 
Barre had developed into several organized movements determined 
to overthrow his regime by force. Angered by what he perceived 


Somalia: A Country Study 

as local support of the opposition, particularly in the north, Siad 
Barre ordered the machine-gunning of livestock herds and the 
poisoning of wells in disaffected rural areas, as well as the in- 
discriminate bombing of cities. In the most notorious of these air 
attacks, the north's administrative center and largest city, Har- 
geysa, was virtually leveled in 1988. 

Siad Barre' s tactics inflamed popular anger and greatly strength- 
ened the appeal of the various guerrilla groups. Nevertheless, the 
opposition's ultimate triumph caught the rebels themselves by sur- 
prise. Their only common goal, to be rid of Siad Barre, was 
achieved by USC forces essentially without assistance from the other 
rebel groups. USC fighters had entered Mogadishu clandestinely 
at the end of December 1990 to assist clan members who had formed 
popular committees of self-defense to protect themselves from at- 
tacks by a rival clan that supported Siad Barre. The presence of 
the USC guerrillas prompted the intervention of the Red Berets 
(Duub Cas), an elite military unit whose members acted as 
bodyguards for Siad Barre, and which was commanded by Siad 
Barre 's eldest son. The fighting quickly escalated, forcing the USC 
to send more of its forces into the city. The USC guerrillas and 
the Red Berets battled in the streets of the capital for four weeks. 
After the USC defeated Siad Barre' s forces, the other rebel move- 
ments declined to cooperate with it. Each of the several opposition 
groups drew its primary support from a particular clan-family (see 
Glossary), and Siad Barre 's sudden removal from the political scene 
opened the way for traditional clan suspicions to reassert them- 
selves. The reemergence of clan politics cast doubt on the prospects 
for Somalia's stability and unity. 

By September 1991, intense rivalry among leaders of the USC- 
dominated interim government had degenerated into street fight- 
ing within the Mogadishu area. Because the different clans resort- 
ed to the use of armed force to buttress their claims for political 
power, government and civil society disintegrated, and essential 
services such as food distribution collapsed. Nature compounded 
the political disaster with a prolonged drought. In 1992 severe fam- 
ine affected much of southern Somalia. International relief agen- 
cies mounted a food and medical aid campaign, but an estimated 
80 percent of food shipments were looted by armed groups affiliated 
with various clans. The worsening situation prompted the United 
Nations (UN) to intervene. On April 22, 1992, the UN proposed 
to send a 550-member mission to Somalia; and on April 24, in UN 
Resolution 751, the Security Council voted to send fifty UN ob- 
servers to monitor the cease-fire in Mogadishu. 


Government and Politics 

Government Structure 

Following its defeat of Siad Barre, the Executive Committee of 
the USC announced the formation of an interim provisional govern- 
ment, even though it did not exercise effective authority over the 
entire country. The USC chose one of its own members, Ali Mahdi 
Mahammad (b. 1939), as provisional president. The president 
served as head of state, but the duties and responsibilities of the 
office were not defined. For the most part, the provisional presi- 
dent retained the same powers that had been stipulated in the con- 
stitution of 1979. This included the authority to appoint a prime 
minister, and subsequendy Mahammad named Umar Arteh Ghalib 
to that position on an interim basis. Ghalib 's cabinet, called the 
Provisional Government of National Unity, initially consisted of 
twenty-seven full ministers and eight deputy ministers. The minis- 
terial portfolios included agriculture, commerce, culture and higher 
education, defense, exports, finance, fisheries, health, industry, 
information, interior, justice, labor and social affairs, livestock and 
forestry, petroleum and minerals, posts and telecommunications, 
public works and housing, reconstruction and settlement, trans- 
portation, tourism, and youth. 

Although the president announced that elections for a perma- 
nent government would be held as soon as security had been reestab- 
lished, rivalries within the USC, as well as opposition to the interim 
government in other parts of the country, made the question of 
elections a moot point. Mahammad 's most serious challenger was 
General Mahammad Faarah Aidid, leader of a USC faction that 
supported cooperation with the SNM. Initially, Aidid contested 
the authority of the Mogadishu-based USC Executive Committee 
to form an interim government without consultation with other po- 
litical groups that had opposed the Siad Barre regime. Relations 
between the Mahammad and Aidid wings of the USC continued 
to deteriorate throughout the spring and summer of 1991 . By Sep- 
tember, Aidid had established his own rival government in the 
southern part of the capital. A series of clashes between forces loy- 
al to Aidid and those loyal to Mahammad compelled the latter to 
retreat to northern Mogadishu. 

Mahammad was a member of the Abgaal clan of the Hawiye 
clan-family, whereas Aidid was a member of that same clan-family's 
Habar Gidir clan. The Abgaal clan comprised nine subclans, several 
of which traditionally have been dominant in the Mogadishu area. 
Because Abgaal leaders had not become involved in the struggle 
against Siad Barre until 1989, other clans tended to view them as 
upstarts trying to usurp control of the opposition movement. This 


Somalia: A Country Study 

perception was especially strong among the Habar Gidir clan, whose 
five subclans lived predominantly in central Somalia. Some Habar 
Gidir leaders had joined the SNM as early as 1984, and they had 
resisted efforts to create a separate Hawiye force — the USC — between 
1987 and 1989. Once the USC was established, Aidid emerged as 
leader of the mainly Habar Gidir faction that maintained an affili- 
ation with the SNM. The Abgaal and Habar Gidir wings of the 
USC were clearly distinct by November 1990 when Aidid, on be- 
half of this group, signed an agreement with the SNM and the 
Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) to unify military operations. 

Despite their political differences, both Mahammad and Aidid 
had long histories of opposition to Siad Barre. A former teacher 
and civil servant, Mahammad had been elected to the 123-member 
National Assembly of the Republic in the March 1969 parliamen- 
tary elections. Following the military coup in October 1969, Ma- 
hammad was arrested along with several other civilian politicians. 
He was released after several years in prison and subsequently be- 
came a successful Mogadishu entrepreneur. During the 1980s, he 
served as director of a local UN office. Eventually Mahammad used 
his wealth to provide crucial financial support to the USC guerril- 
las. In May 1990, he was one of 1 14 prominent citizens who signed 
a public manifesto calling on the government to resign and request- 
ing that Siad Barre introduce democratic reforms. When Siad Barre 
began arresting signatories to the manifesto, Mahammad fled to 
exile in Italy, where he worked in the USC's Rome office. 

The appointment of Ghalib as provisional prime minister demon- 
strated the sensitivity of Mahammad and other USC leaders to the 
role of clans in the country's politics. Ghalib belonged to the im- 
portant Isaaq clan-family of northern Somalia. Although the main 
opposition group in the north, the SNM, was closely identified with 
the Isaaq, Ghalib was not an SNM member. Rather, his political 
career had associated him with national government. From 1969 
to 1976, Ghalib had served as Siad Barre's first foreign minister. 
He was dismissed after disagreeing with Siad Barre's increasingly 
overt policy of supporting the ethnic Somali insurrection in Ethio- 
pia's Ogaden (Ogaadeen) region. Ghalib was subsequently arrested, 
and in 1989, after spending seven years in prison without charges, 
he was tried for treason and sentenced to death. Following pro- 
tests from various foreign governments, Siad Barre commuted 
Ghalib 's sentence but kept him under house arrest. In late Janu- 
ary 1991, as his regime was collapsing, Siad Barre asked Ghalib 
to form a new government that would negotiate with the rebels, 
but the USC military successes forced Siad Barre's flight from the 
capital before any transfer of power could be completed. 


Poster in Mogadishu of Mahammad Siad Barre, a revolutionary leader of 

Somalia, deposed in 1991 
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


The provisional government called for a new constitution to 
replace the 1979 document that had been the law of the land at 
the time of Siad Barre 's overthrow. The provisional government 
created a Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, which was charged 
with planning for a constitutional convention and revising an Oc- 
tober 1990 draft constitution that Siad Barre had proposed in an 
unsuccessful effort to stem opposition to his rule. As of May 1992, 
however, the lack of consensus among the USC -dominated govern- 
ment and the various guerrilla groups that controlled more than 
half of the nation had prevented completion of a final version of 
the new constitution. Consequently, those provisions of the con- 
stitution of 1979 that had not been specifically voided by the in- 
terim government remained in force. 

Like its 1984 amendments, the constitution of 1979 had been 
approved in a popular referendum. Somalia had universal suffrage 
for persons over eighteen years of age, but women did not play 
a significant role in politics (see From Independence to Revolu- 
tion, ch. 1). The constitution of 1979 resembled the constitution 
of 1961 , also approved in a nationwide referendum after the former 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Italian and British colonies had been unified as independent Soma- 
lia. The main difference between the two documents concerned 
executive power. The constitution of 1961 had provided for a 
parliamentary democracy, with the prime minister and Council 
of Ministers (cabinet) being drawn from the membership of the 
legislature. The legislature also elected the head of state, or presi- 
dent of the republic. The constitution of 1979 provided for a 
presidential system under which the president served as both head 
of state and head of government. As head of government, the presi- 
dent selected the members of the Council of Ministers, which he 
chaired. The constitution of 1979 initially called for the president 
to be elected to a six-year, renewable term of office by a two-thirds 
majority vote of the legislature. Constitutional amendments enacted 
in 1984 provided for direct popular election of the president to a 
seven-year term. The first presidential election was held in 1986. 
Siad Barre, the sole candidate, received 99.9 percent of the votes. 

Both the 1961 and 1979 constitutions granted broad powers to 
the president. The constitution of 1979 authorized the president 
to conduct foreign affairs, declare war, invoke emergency powers, 
serve as commander in chief of the armed forces, and appoint one 
or more vice presidents, the president of the Supreme Court, up 
to six members of the national legislature, and the members of the 
Council of Ministers. Both constitutions also provided for a 
unicameral legislature subject to stand for election at least once 
every five years; the president could dissolve the legislature earlier. 


Although the Siad Barre government suspended the National 
Assembly following the 1969 coup, a decade later it created a new 
single-chamber legislature, the People's Assembly. The constitu- 
tion of 1979 stipulated that the People's Assembly have 177 mem- 
bers, including 6 members appointed by the president and 171 
chosen by popular election. By contrast, the precoup National As- 
sembly had only 123 members. Members of the People's Assem- 
bly served a five-year term. Two such assemblies were elected, one 
in 1979 and another in 1984. The elections scheduled for 1989 were 
postponed as a result of the civil strife that by then had engulfed 
most of the country. 

Critics and opponents of the regime were not permitted to run 
in either the 1979 or the 1984 election. Instead, the government 
drew up lists of candidates, all of whom were members of the only 
legally permitted party (the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party — 
SRSP), and submitted the entire lists for voter approval. In both 
instances, the government announced that more than 99 percent 


Government and Politics 

of the electorate had approved the official lists. The People's As- 
sembly also did not truly debate any legislation. It met for several 
days each year and ratified whatever laws the executive had decided 
to submit for its "approval." 

The People's Assembly was not in session when the Siad Barre 
government was toppled. The provisional government announced 
its intention to hold elections for a new legislature, but as of 
mid- 1992 the continuing political disturbances in the country had 
prevented the formulation of definite plans for such elections. 

Local Government 

One of the consequences of the civil strife that began in 1988 
was the alienation of many local governments from the effective 
authority of Mogadishu. Whereas the domestic situation as of May 
1992 remained unstable, the trend appeared to be toward a de- 
centralized system of local government similar to that existing pri- 
or to the 1969 coup. The constitution of 1961 had provided for 
the decentralization of administrative functions wherever feasible, 
and throughout the country elected councils had been responsible 
for municipal and district government. However, direct supervi- 
sion of local government affairs by central authorities also was part 
of Somalia's recent history, and a return to a centralized system 
could not be ruled out. Indeed, the local government structures 
that existed in 1992 were the same ones that had been established 
during Siad Barre 's dictatorship. 

One of Siad Barre 's first decrees following the 1969 military coup 
dissolved all the elected municipal and district councils. This edict 
was followed by acts that eventually reorganized local government 
into sixteen regions, each containing three to six districts, with the 
exception of the capital region (Banaadir), which was segmented 
into fifteen districts. Of the total eighty-four districts, some were 
totally urban, while others included both urban and rural com- 
munities. Local government authority was vested in regional and 
district councils, the members of which were appointed by the cen- 
tral government. A 1979 law authorized district council elections, 
but reserved to the government the right to approve candidates 
before their names were submitted to voters. Permanent settlements 
in rural areas had elected village councils, although all candidates 
had to be approved by government officials at the district level. 

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development ex- 
ercised authority over the structure of local government. Through- 
out Siad Barre 's twenty-one-year rule, a high-ranking military 
officer usually headed this ministry. Military officers also were ap- 
pointed as chairmen of the regional councils. Most members of 


Somalia: A Country Study 

the regional and district councils were drawn from the army, the 
police, and security personnel. Such practices ensured that those 
in charge of carrying out administrative functions at the local lev- 
el were directly responsible to Mogadishu. 

All levels of local government were staffed by personnel of the 
national civil service who had been assigned to their posts by the 
central authorities. Local councils were permitted to plan local 
projects, impose local taxes, and borrow funds (with prior ministeri- 
al approval) for demonstrably productive development projects. 

Legal System 

At independence, Somalia had four distinct legal traditions: En- 
glish common law, Italian law, Islamic sharia or religious law, and 
Somali customary law (traditional rules and sanctions). The 
challenge after 1960 was to meld this diverse legal inheritance into 
one system. During the 1960s, a uniform penal code, a code of 
criminal court procedures, and a standardized judicial organiza- 
tion were introduced. The Italian system of basing judicial deci- 
sions on the application and interpretation of the legal code was 
retained. The courts were enjoined, however, to apply English com- 
mon law and doctrines of equity in matters not governed by legis- 

In Italian Somaliland, observance of the sharia had been more 
common than in British Somaliland, where the application of Is- 
lamic law had been limited to cases pertaining to marriage, divorce, 
family disputes, and inheritance. Qadis (Muslim judges) in Brit- 
ish Somaliland also adjudicated customary law in cases such as land 
tenure disputes and disagreements over the payment of diya (see 
Glossary) or blood compensation. In Italian Somaliland, however, 
the sharia courts had also settled civil and minor penal matters, 
and Muslim plaintiffs had a choice of appearing before a secular 
judge or a qadi. After independence the differences between the 
two regions were resolved by making the sharia applicable in all 
civil matters if the dispute arose under that law. Somali customary 
law was retained for optional application in such matters as land 
tenure, water and grazing rights, and the payment of diya. 

The military junta suspended the constitution of 1961 when it 
took power in 1969, but it initially respected other sources of law. 
In 1973 the Siad Barre regime introduced a unified civil code. Its 
provisions pertaining to inheritance, personal contracts, and water 
and grazing rights sharply curtailed both the sharia and Somali 
customary law. Siad Barre 's determination to limit the influence 
of the country's clans was reflected in sections of the code that 


Government and Politics 

abolished traditional clan and lineage rights over land, water 
resources, and grazing. In addition, the new civil code restricted 
the payment of diya as compensation for death or injury to the vic- 
tim or close relatives rather than to an entire dzjxz-paying group. 
A subsequent amendment prohibited the payment of diya entirely. 

The attorney general, who was appointed by the minister of 
justice, was responsible for the observance of the law and prosecu- 
tion of criminal matters. The attorney general had ten deputies 
in the capital and several other deputies in the rest of the country. 
Outside of Mogadishu, the deputies of the attorney general had 
their offices at the regional and district courts. 


The constitution of 1961 had provided for a unified judiciary 
independent of the executive and the legislature. A 1962 law in- 
tegrated the courts of northern and southern Somalia into a four- 
tiered system: the Supreme Court, courts of appeal, regional courts, 
and district courts. Sharia courts were discontinued although judges 
were expected to take the sharia into consideration when making 
decisions. The Siad Barre government did not fundamentally alter 
this structure; nor had the provisional government made any sig- 
nificant changes as of May 1992. 

At the lowest level of the Somali judicial system were the eighty- 
four district courts, each of which consisted of civil and criminal 
divisions. The civil division of the district court had jurisdiction 
over matters requiring the application of the sharia, or customary 
law, and suits involving claims of up to 3,000 Somali shillings (for 
value of the shilling, see Glossary). The criminal division of the 
district court had jurisdiction over offenses punishable by fines or 
prison sentences of less than three years. 

There were eight regional courts, each consisting of three divi- 
sions. The ordinary division had jurisdiction over penal and civil 
cases considered too serious to be heard by the district courts. The 
assize division considered only major criminal cases, that is, those 
concerning crimes punishable by more than ten years' imprison- 
ment. A third division handled cases pertaining to labor legisla- 
tion. In both the district and regional courts, a single magistrate, 
assisted by two laymen, heard cases, decided questions of fact, and 
voted on the guilt or innocence of the accused. 

Somalia's next-highest tier of courts consisted of the two courts 
of appeal. The court of appeals for the southern region sat at 
Mogadishu, and the northern region's court of appeals sat at Har- 
geysa. Each court of appeal had two divisions. The ordinary divi- 
sion heard appeals of district court decisions and of decisions of 


Somalia: A Country Study 

the ordinary division of the regional courts, whereas the assize di- 
vision was only for appeals from the regional assize courts. A sin- 
gle judge presided over cases in both divisions. Two laymen assisted 
the judge in the ordinary division, and four laymen assisted the 
judge in the assize division. The senior judges of the courts of ap- 
peal, who were called presidents, administered all the courts in their 
respective regions. 

The Supreme Court, which sat at Mogadishu, had ultimate 
authority for the uniform interpretation of the law. It heard ap- 
peals of decisions and judgments of the lower courts and of actions 
taken by public attorneys, and settled questions of court jurisdic- 
tion. The Supreme Court was composed of a chief justice, who 
was referred to as the president, a vice president, nine surrogate 
justices, and four laymen. The president, two other judges, and 
four laymen constituted a full panel for plenary sessions of the 
Supreme Court. In ordinary sessions, one judge presided with the 
assistance of two other judges and two laymen. The president of 
the Supreme Court decided whether a case was to be handled in 
plenary or ordinary session, on the basis of the importance of the 
matter being considered. 

Although the military government did not change the basic struc- 
ture of the court system, it did introduce a major new institution, 
the National Security Courts (NSCs), which operated outside the 
ordinary legal system and under the direct control of the execu- 
tive. These courts, which sat at Mogadishu and the regional capi- 
tals, had jurisdiction over serious offenses defined by the 
government as affecting the security of the state, including offenses 
against public order and crimes by government officials. The NSC 
heard a broad range of cases, passing sentences for embezzlement 
by public officials, murder, political activities against the state, and 
thefts of government food stocks. A senior military officer was presi- 
dent of each NSC. He was assisted by two other judges, usually 
also military officers. A special military attorney general prosecuted 
cases brought before the NSC. No other court, not even the 
Supreme Court, could review NSC sentences. Appeals of NSC ver- 
dicts could be taken only to the president of the republic. Oppo- 
nents of the Siad Barre regime accused the NSC of sentencing 
hundreds of people to death for political reasons. In October 1990, 
Siad Barre announced the abolition of the widely feared and de- 
tested courts; as of May 1992, the NSCs had not been reinstituted 
by the provisional government. 

Before the 1969 coup, the Higher Judicial Council had respon- 
sibility for the selection, promotion, and discipline of members of 
the judiciary. The council was chaired by the president of the 


Government and Politics 

Supreme Court and included justices of the court, the attorney 
general, and three members elected by the National Assembly. In 
1970 military officers assumed all positions on the Higher Judicial 
Council. The effect of this change was to make the judiciary ac- 
countable to the executive. One of the announced aims of the provi- 
sional government after the overthrow of Siad Barre was the 
restoration of judicial independence. 

Political Dynamics 

The most significant political consequence of Siad Barre 's twenty- 
one-year rule was an intensified identification with parochial clans. 
By 1992 the multiplicity of political rivalries among the country's 
numerous clans seriously jeopardized Somalia's continued existence 
as a unified state. There was considerable irony in this situation 
because Siad Barre, following the 1969 military coup that had 
brought him to power, had proclaimed his opposition to clan pol- 
itics and had justified the banning of political parties on the grounds 
that they were merely partisan organizations that impeded national 
integration. Nevertheless, from the beginning of his rule Siad Barre 
favored the lineages and clans of his own clan-family, the Daarood 
(see The Segmentary Social Order, ch. 2). In particular, he dis- 
tributed political offices and the powers and rewards concomitant 
with these positions disproportionately to three clans of the Daarood: 
his own clan, the Mareehaan; the clan of his son-in-law, the Dul- 
bahante; and the clan of his mother, the Ogaden. The exclusion 
of other clans from important government posts was a gradual 
process, but by the late 1970s there was a growing perception, at 
least among the political elite, that Siad Barre was unduly partial 
toward the three Daarood clans to which he had family ties. 

The forced dissolution of political parties in 1969 and the con- 
tinuing prohibition of political activity tended to enhance the im- 
portance of clans because family gatherings remained virtually the 
only regular venue where politics could be discussed freely. The 
creation in 1976 of the government-sponsored Somali Revolutionary 
Socialist Party (SRSP) failed to fill the political vacuum created 
by the absence of legitimate parties. Siad Barre and his closest mili- 
tary advisers had formed the SRSP as the country's sole political 
organization, anticipating that it would transcend clan loyalties and 
mobilize popular support for government policies. The SRSP's five- 
member politburo, which Siad Barre chaired, decided the party's 
position on issues. The members of the SRSP, who never num- 
bered more than 20,000, implemented directives from the polit- 
buro (via the central committee) or the government; they did not 
debate policy. Because most of the top SRSP leaders by 1980 were 


Somalia: A Country Study 

of the Mareehaan, Dulbahante, or Ogaden clans, the party be- 
came another example to disaffected clans of their exclusion from 
any meaningful political role. 

Opposition Movements 

The first clan to feel politically deprived by the military regime 
was the Majeerteen, which, like Siad Barre's own Mareehaan clan, 
belonged to the Daarood clan-family. The Majeerteen clan, along 
with certain clans of the Hawiye and Isaaq clan-families, had played 
a significant role in national politics before the 1969 military coup, 
and individual Majeerteen held important positions in the 
bureaucracy and the military. Siad Barre apparently resented the 
clan's prominence, and as early as 1970 was singling out the Majeer- 
teen lineages for alleged opposition to his reform efforts. As a clan, 
the Majeerteen probably did not oppose Siad Barre at the outset. 
However, his insensitive rhetoric and discriminatory appointment 
and promotion policies had the effect, by the mid-1970s, of alienat- 
ing the heads of the leading Majeerteen lineages, the very persons 
whose attitudes were decisive in determining the clan's political 

Majeerteen officers were the primary organizers of an unsuc- 
cessful coup in April 1978, following the army's humiliating defeat 
in the Ogaden War (see Persecution of the Majeerteen, ch. 1). An 
estimated 500 rebel soldiers were killed in fighting with forces loy- 
al to Siad Barre, and subsequently seventeen officers, all but one 
of them Majeerteen, were executed. Several colonels suspected of 
plotting the coup escaped capture, however, and fled abroad; one 
of them, Yusuf Ahmad, played a major role in forming the Soma- 
li Salvation Front (SSF), the first opposition movement dedicated 
to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime by force. (The SSF be- 
came the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) in October 
1981 — see Sources of Opposition, ch. 5.) In 1982 SSDF guerrillas 
with Ethiopian army units occupied areas along the border, in- 
cluding two district towns, but it was not until 1988 that they be- 
gan to extend their control over the western districts of Mudug 
Region and the southern areas of Nugaal and Bari regions. 

The Isaaq clans of northwestern Somalia also resented what they 
perceived as their inadequate representation in Siad Barre's govern- 
ment. This disaffection crystallized in 1981 when Isaaq dissidents 
living in London formed the Somali National Movement (SNM) 
with the aim of toppling the Siad Barre regime. The following year, 
the SNM transferred its headquarters to Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, from 
where it launched guerrilla raids into the Woqooyi Galbeed and 
Togdheer regions of Somalia. Like the SSDF, the SNM had both 


Mogadishu seafront, with city in background 
Chisimayu, one of Somalia 's leading ports 
Courtesy R.W.S. Hudson 


Somalia: A Country Study 

military and political wings, proclaimed itself as a nationwide op- 
position movement, and tried to enlist the support of non-Isaaq 
clans. Initially, the SNM was more successful than the SSDF in 
appealing to other clans, and some Hawiye clan leaders worked 
with the SNM in the early and mid-1980s. Prior to establishing 
itself within Somalia in 1988, the SNM used its Ethiopian sanctu- 
ary to carry out a number of sensational activities against the Siad 
Barre regime, most notably the 1983 attack on Mandera Prison 
near Berbera, which resulted in the freeing of several northern dis- 

Siad Barre 's response to the guerrilla movements included in- 
creased repression of suspected political dissent nationwide and bru- 
tal collective punishments in the Majeerteen and Isaaq regions. 
These measures only intensified opposition to his regime (see Op- 
pression of the Isaaq, ch. 1). Nevertheless, the opposition failed 
to unite because Siad Barre' s strategy of using one clan to carry 
out government reprisals against a disfavored clan had the effect 
of intensifying both inter- and intra-clan antagonisms. For exam- 
ple, Hawiye leaders who had previously cooperated with the SNM 
decided in 1989 to form their own clan-based opposition move- 
ment, the United Somali Congress (USC) (see Harrying of the 
Hawiye, ch. 1). Also, the Gadabursi and Iise clans of the Dir clan- 
family in northwestern Somalia and the Dulbahante and Warsan- 
gali clans of the Daarood clan-family in the Sanaag and Bari regions 
grew increasingly resentful of Isaaq domination of districts "liber- 
ated" from government control. In 1990 the north's largest non- 
Isaaq clan, the Gadabursi, created its own movement, the Somali 
Democratic Alliance (SDA). 

The divisions within the opposition, however, did not work to 
Siad Barre 's long-term advantage because he was gradually alienat- 
ing an increasing number of the country's clans, including the very 
lineages of the Dulbahante and Ogaden clans that had provided 
his most loyal support. In particular, the Ogaden clan, living in 
both Somalia and Ethiopia and strongly interested in pan-Somali 
issues, tended to blame Siad Barre for Somalia's defeat in the 
1977-78 Ogaden War. This suppressed resentment turned to defi- 
ant opposition after Siad Barre decided in 1988 to conclude a peace 
agreement with Ethiopia. The deteriorating relations between Siad 
Barre and former Ogaden supporters climaxed in 1990 with a mass 
desertion of Ogaden officers from the army. These officers allied 
with the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), a group that had 
formed in 1985 as a result of a split within the SSDF. The greatly 
enhanced military strength of the SPM enabled it to capture and 
hold several government garrisons in the south. 


Government and Politics 

Politics of Reconciliation 

During the final three years of Siad Barre's rule, there was rela- 
tively intense fighting throughout the country as the opposition 
groups gradually wrested control of extensive areas: the SNM in 
the northwest, the SSDF in the northeast, the USC in central Soma- 
lia, and the SPM in the south. Demonstrations against Siad Barre's 
rule spread even to the capital, where the military was used to sup- 
press protests. A July 1989 mass demonstration in Mogadishu was 
dispersed only after government troops shot and killed a number 
of persons variously estimated to be between 200 and 300. The 
deteriorating situation alarmed those civilian politicians, business- 
men, intellectuals, and religious leaders who were critical of the 
regime's repressive policies and supportive of introducing demo- 
cratic reforms peacefully. A group of these prominent leaders, who 
included representatives of all the country's major clans, eventu- 
ally formed the Council for National Reconciliation and Salvation 
(CNRS) to press demands for political change. In addition to their 
commitment to democratization, those involved with the CNRS 
also wished to create a political organization that would transcend 
clan loyalties. The CNRS issued its first open manifesto in May 
1990. This document, signed by 114 leading citizens of Mogadishu, 
called for Siad Barre's resignation, the establishment of an interim 
government consisting of representatives of the opposition move- 
ments, and a timetable for multiparty elections. 

The CNRS's manifesto aroused interest both in and outside 
Somalia, although it was not welcomed by Siad Barre. Neverthe- 
less, the president was reluctant to take immediate action against 
the signatories because of the risks involved in antagonizing so many 
different clans and further straining diplomatic relations with donor 
countries that had become critical of his regime's human rights 
policies (see Foreign Policy, this ch.). Siad Barre eventually did 
order the arrest of the signers, although security forces were able 
to round up only forty-five of them. Their detention prompted 
strenuous protests from Egypt, Italy, and other countries, and af- 
ter a few weeks the regime released them. The experience embol- 
dened the CNRS to push more assertively for peaceful resolution 
of the country's political crisis. With the support of Egypt and Ita- 
ly, the CNRS called in September 1990 for a national reconcilia- 
tion roundtable. The CNRS invited the Siad Barre regime and 
five guerrilla groups to send representatives to Cairo to discuss how 
to end the dictatorship and return the country to democratic govern- 
ment. Neither Siad Barre nor the armed opposition, however, were 


Somalia: A Country Study 

willing to attend such a roundtable unless each party agreed to the 
other's conditions. 

In 1990 guerrilla leaders generally were disinclined to negotiate 
with the Siad Barre regime because they had become convinced 
of their eventual success. The prospect of defeating Siad Barre in- 
evitably compelled them to focus on relations among their various 
organizations. A series of informal talks concluded in August 1990 
with an announcement from the SNM, the Mahammad Faarah 
Aidid faction of the USC, and the SPM that they had agreed to 
coordinate strategy toward the government. In September leaders 
of the three groups met in Ethiopia, where they signed an agree- 
ment to form a military alliance. Although cooperation among the 
major opposition forces was essential to a smooth transition to a 
post-Siad Barre era, the pace of events after September did not 
provide adequate time for mutual trust and cooperative relations 
to develop. The SNM, USC, and SPM fighters, who for the most 
part operated in clan-based enclaves, never participated in any joint 
actions. During the final assault on Siad Barre 's forces, in December 
1990 and January 1991, guerrillas of the Abgaal faction of the USC 
infiltrated Mogadishu, whose population was approximately 80 per- 
cent Hawiye, and successfully fought without the assistance of either 
the SNM, the SPM, or the Habar Gidir faction of the USC. 

Politics of Succession 

The USC's announcement of a provisional government in Febru- 
ary 1991 angered its allies, who maintained that they had not been 
consulted. Other opposition movements, particularly the SSDF, 
felt that the USC had slighted their long years of struggle against 
the Siad Barre regime, and refused to accept the legitimacy of the 
provisional government. The SPM and the SSDF formed a loose 
alliance to contest USC control of the central government and oust- 
ed USC forces from Chisimayu, a major southern city. Violent 
clashes throughout March threatened to return the country to civil 
war. Although in early April 1991, the USC and its guerrilla op- 
ponents in the south agreed to a cease-fire, this agreement broke 
down in the latter part of the year as fighting spread throughout 
those areas of Somalia under the nominal control of the the provi- 
sional government. The provisional government was continuing 
to hold talks on power sharing, but the prospects for long-term po- 
litical stability remained uncertain. 

The situation in northern Somalia was even more serious for 
the provisional government. The dominant SNM, whose fighters 
had evicted Siad Barre 's forces from almost all of Woqooyi Gal- 
beed, Togdheer, and Sanaag regions as early as October 1990, had 


Government and Politics 

also captured the besieged garrisons at Berbera, Burao, and Har- 
geysa at the end of January; they were not prepared to hand over 
control to the new government in Mogadishu. Like its counter- 
parts in the south, the SNM criticized the USC's unilateral takeover 
of the central government, and the SNM leadership refused to par- 
ticipate in USC -proposed unity talks. The SNM moved to con- 
solidate its own position by assuming responsibility for all aspects 
of local administration in the north. Lacking the cooperation of 
the SNM, the provisional government was powerless to assert its 
own authority in the region. The SNM's political objectives be- 
gan to clarify by the end of February 1991 , when the organization 
held a conference at which the feasibility of revoking the 1960 act 
of union was seriously debated. 

In the weeks following Siad Barre's overthrow, the SNM consid- 
ered its relations with the non-Isaaq clans of the north to be more 
problematic than its relations with the provisional government. The 
SDA, supported primarily by the Gadabursi clan, and the rela- 
tively new United Somali Front (USF), formed by members of the 
Iise clan, felt apprehension at the prospect of SNM control of their 
areas. During February there were clashes between SNM and USF 
fighters in Seylac and its environs. The militarily dominant SNM, 
although making clear that it would not tolerate armed opposition 
to its rule, demonstrated flexibility in working out local power- 
sharing arrangements with the various clans. SNM leaders spon- 
sored public meetings throughout the north, using the common 
northern resentment against the southern-based central government 
to help defuse interclan animosities. The SNM administration per- 
suaded the leaders of all the north's major clans to attend a con- 
ference at Burao in April 1991 , at which the region's political future 
was debated. Delegates to the Burao conference passed several reso- 
lutions pertaining to the future independence of the north from 
the south and created a standing committee, carefully balanced in 
terms of clan representation, to draft a constitution. The delegates 
also called for the formation of an interim government to rule the 
north until multiparty elections could be held. 

The Central Committee of the SNM adopted most of the reso- 
lutions of the Burao conference as party policy. Although some 
SNM leaders opposed secession, the Central Committee moved 
forward with plans for an independent state, and on May 17, 1991 , 
announced the formation of the Republic of Somaliland. The new 
state's border roughly paralleled those of the former colony, Brit- 
ish Somaliland. SNM Secretary General Abdirahmaan Ahmad Ali 
"Tour" was named president and Hasan Iise Jaama vice president. 
Ali "Tour" appointed a seventeen-member cabinet to administer 


Somalia: A Country Study 

the state. The SNM termed the new regime an interim govern- 
ment having a mandate to rule pending elections scheduled for 1993. 
During 1991 and 1992, the interim government established the shar- 
ia as the principal law of the new republic and chose a national 
flag. It promised to protect an array of liberties, including free- 
dom of the press, free elections, and the right to form political par- 
ties, and tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to win international recognition 
for the Republic of Somaliland as a separate country. 

Politics of Disintegration 

Mogadishu could not deal effectively with the political challenge 
in the north because the interim government of President Ali Mahdi 
Mahamaad gradually lost control of central authority. Even though 
the interim government was dominated by the USC , this guerrilla 
force failed to adapt to its new position as a political party. Although 
the USC was primarily a Hawiye militia, it was internally divided 
between two major Hawiye clans, the Abgaal and Habar Gidir. 
Once in power, the clans began to argue over the distribution of 
political offices. Interim president Mahammad emerged as the most 
prominent Abgaal leader whereas Aidid emerged as the most in- 
fluential Habar Gidir leader. Fighters loyal to each man clashed 
in the streets of Mogadishu during the summer of 1991, then en- 
gaged in open battle beginning in September. By the end of the 
year, the fighting had resulted in divided control of the capital. 
Aidid 's guerrillas held southern Mogadishu, which included the 
port area and the international airport, and Mahammad 's forces 
controlled the area around the presidential palace in central 
Mogadishu and the northern suburbs. 

A United Nations-mediated cease-fire agreement that came into 
effect in March 1992 helped to reduce the level of fighting, but 
did not end all the violence. Neither Mahammad nor Aidid was 
prepared to compromise over political differences, and, consequent- 
ly, Mogadishu remained divided. Aidid' s faction of the USC com- 
prised an estimated 10,000 guerrillas. Many of these men looted 
food supplies destined for famine victims and interfered with the 
operations of the international relief agencies. They justified their 
actions on the grounds that the assistance would help their ene- 
mies, the USC faction loyal to Mahammad. The pro-Mahammad 
forces included an estimated 5,000 fighters. They also used food 
as a weapon. 

Mass Media 

Prior to the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime in January 1991 , 
all domestic publications and broadcasting were controlled by the 


One of numerous foreign relief grain shipments being unloaded in 

Berbera port for distribution, 1991 
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 

government. The Ministry of Information and National Guidance 
published the country's only daily newspaper, Xiddigta Oktoobar (Oc- 
tober Star), which offered editions in Arabic, English, Italian, and 
Somali. The ministry also published a variety of weekly and monthly 
magazines. The state-run Somali National News Agency (SON- 
NA) distributed press reports about the country to foreign news 
bureaus. The ministry's Broadcasting Department was responsi- 
ble for radio and television broadcasts. The two radio stations, at 
Mogadishu and Hargeysa, transmitted a variety of news and en- 
tertainment programs. Radio Mogadishu featured about two hours 
each day of programs in foreign languages, including Afar, Am- 
haric, Arabic, English, French, Italian, Oromo, and Swahili. In 
1988, the most recent year for which statistics were available, there 
were an estimated 375,000 radio receivers in Somalia. Television 
service was inaugurated in 1983; two hours of programs were broad- 
cast daily from Mogadishu. The civil war disrupted service in the 
1990s, however. 

After Siad Barre's ouster, the provisional government maintained 
the publishing and broadcasting functions of the Ministry of In- 
formation and National Guidance. However, it had no authority 


Somalia: A Country Study 

over the new Radio Hargeysa, which was controlled by the SNM, 
and which, following the May 1991 declaration of independence, 
was renamed the Voice of the Republic of Somaliland. The provi- 
sional government in the south announced that newspapers would 
be permitted to publish free of government censorship, but by 
mid- 1991, the only new paper that had appeared was the USC's 
Al Majlis (The Council). Subsequently, publication of newspapers 
became impossible because the country disintegrated into civil war 
in late 1991 and early 1992. 

Foreign Relations 

The provisional government established in February 1991 in- 
herited a legacy of problematic relations with neighboring states 
and economic dependence on aid from Arab and Western nations. 
Relations between Somalia and its three neighbors — Djibouti, 
Ethiopia, and Kenya — had been poisoned for more than two de- 
cades by Somalia's irredentist claims to areas inhabited by ethnic 
Somalis in each of these three states. The 1977-78 Ogaden War 
with Ethiopia, although a humiliating defeat for Somalia, had creat- 
ed deep suspicions in the Horn of Africa concerning the intentions 
of the Siad Barre regime. The continuing strain in Somali-Ethiopian 
relations tended to reinforce these suspicions. 

Civil strife in Ethiopia and repressive measures in the Ogaden 
caused more than 650,000 ethnic Somalis and Oromo residing in 
Ethiopia to flee to Somalia by early 1978. The integration of so 
many refugees into an essentially agrarian society afflicted by per- 
sistent drought was beyond Somalia's economic capacity. In the 
absence of a peace agreement, prospects for repatriation continued 
to be virtually nonexistent. The Siad Barre government's solution 
to this major political, social, and economic problem was to make 
the search for generous financial assistance a focal point of its for- 
eign policy. 

Relations with Neighboring African States 

For ten years after the Ogaden War, the Siad Barre government 
refused to renounce its public support of the Ethiopian guerrilla 
organization, the Western Somali Liberation Front, and provid- 
ed it with clandestine military assistance to carry out raids inside 
Ethiopia. The Mengistu Haile-Mariam government responded in 
kind by providing bases, sanctuary, and military assistance to the 
SSDF and the SNM. Siad Barre' s fear of Ethiopian military pow- 
er induced him in the early 1980s to begin a process of rapproche- 
ment with Somalia's other neighbors, Kenya and the former French 
territory of Djibouti. Kenya had long suspected Somalia of 


Government and Politics 

encouraging separatist activities among the predominantly ethnic 
Somali population in its North-Eastern Region. Following a 1981 
summit meeting with Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi in Nairo- 
bi, Siad Barre's public renunciation of any Somali territorial claims 
on Kenya helped dissipate mistrust. 

Beginning in 1982, both Kenya and Djibouti, apparently en- 
couraged by Siad Barre's stated willingness to hold direct talks with 
Mengistu, made diplomatic efforts to mediate between Somalia and 
Ethiopia. It was not until 1986, however, that Siad Barre and Men- 
gistu finally agreed to meet. This first meeting since before the 
Ogaden War took place in the city of Djibouti and marked the be- 
ginning of a gradual rapprochement. Siad Barre's willingness to 
defuse the situation along the Somali-Ethiopian border stemmed 
from the combined pressures of escalating guerrilla activity, overt 
Ethiopian military threats, drought, and the destabilizing presence 
of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian refugees. Siad Barre and 
Mengistu held a second meeting in April 1988, at which they signed 
a peace agreement and formally reestablished diplomatic relations. 
Both leaders agreed to withdraw their troops from their mutual 
borders and to cease support for armed dissident groups trying 
to overthrow the respective governments in Addis Ababa and 

The peace accord failed to provide Siad Barre respite from guer- 
rilla activity and probably contributed to his eventual demise. An- 
ticipating the possibility of being expelled from Ethiopia, the SNM 
decided to relocate within Somalia itself, a decision that drastical- 
ly changed the nature of the conflict in the north. Despite the ter- 
mination of Ethiopian assistance, SNM guerrillas continued to 
defeat Siad Barre's forces with relative ease; by August 1988, they 
had captured Hargeysa and other northern towns. Siad Barre 
responded by ordering massive aerial bombing, carried out by for- 
eign mercenary pilots, that damaged or destroyed almost every 
building in Hargeysa (see Sources of Opposition, ch. 5). The bru- 
tal attack, which resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and 
brought both domestic and international opprobrium upon the Siad 
Barre regime, failed to crush the SNM. Fighting not only intensi- 
fied in the north over the next eighteen months, but also spread 
throughout the country, forcing an estimated 800,000 Somalis to 
seek refuge in Ethiopia. 

In March 1990, Siad Barre accused Ethiopia of having violated 
the 1988 peace agreement by providing continued military sup- 
port to the SNM. However, by this time the Mengistu govern- 
ment was as beleaguered as the Siad Barre regime by armed 
opposition movements and was not in a position to assist any Somali 


Somalia: A Country Study 

rebels. Soon after Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in January 1991, 
Mengistu followed his example by fleeing Addis Ababa as guerrilla 
armies closed upon the Ethiopian capital. Throughout 1991 the new 
provisional governments in Somalia and Ethiopia regarded each 
other cautiously. Both were threatened by separatist movements 
and both had an interest in maintaining the integrity of interna- 
tionally recognized borders. As conditions in Somalia worsened 
on account of civil strife, the collapse of central authority, and the 
disruption of food production and distribution, tens of thousands 
of Somalis fled to Ethiopia, creating a massive refugee situation 
in that country by early 1992. 

Sharing land borders with both Somalia and Ethiopia, Djibouti 
believed it was in the long-term interests of the Horn of Africa region 
if both countries remained intact. Djibouti's president, Hassan 
Gouled Aptidon, attempted to mediate between the provisional 
government and the SNM and offered his capital as a neutral meet- 
ing place. In June 1991 , Djibouti served as the venue for a nation- 
al reconciliation conference between the USC and several other 

With the majority of Djibouti's diverse population consisting of 
ethnic Somalis, Aptidon 's concern about Somalia's future was not 
entirely altruistic. The Somalis of Djibouti belonged overwhelm- 
ingly to the Iise clan, traditional rival of the Isaaq, who dominat- 
ed the SNM. The Djibouti Iise tended to be suspicious of the Isaaq, 
believing that they discriminated against their Iise kinsmen in north- 
ern Somalia. This concern had prompted Djibouti in 1990 to as- 
sist in the formation and training of a separate Iise movement that 
challenged the SNM before and after the overthrow of Siad Barre. 
From Djibouti's perspective, a united Somalia composed of many 
clans afforded more protection to the Iise than a northern republic 
controlled by Isaaq. 

Kenya was concerned about the situation in southern Somalia, 
which continued to be unstable throughout 1991 . Somali refugees, 
both civilian and military, had crossed the border into northern 
Kenya to escape the fighting. The refugees included more than 
fifty close associates of Siad Barre who were granted political asy- 
lum. Since the provisional government had announced its inten- 
tion to try these officials, this action had the potential to provoke 
political problems between Kenya and Somalia. By early 1992, tens 
of thousands of Somalis were being sheltered in makeshift refugee 
camps in northern Kenya. 

Relations with Arab Countries 

Somalia has a long history of cultural, religious, and trade ties 


An elderly woman from Burao, 
a town in northern 
Somalia severely damaged 
in the civil war, 1991 
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 

Village children near their hut 
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 

Somalia: A Country Study 

with the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula, which lies across the Gulf 
of Aden. Although Somalis ethnically are not Arabs, they identify 
more with Arabs than with their fellow Africans. Thus it was not 
surprising when Somalia joined the League of Arab States (Arab 
League) in 1974, becoming the first non-Arab member of that or- 
ganization. Initially, Somalia tended to support those Arab coun- 
tries such as Algeria, Iraq, and Libya that opposed United States 
policies in the Middle East. After its defeat in the Ogaden War, 
the Siad Barre regime aligned its policies more closely with those 
of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, both of these countries 
began to provide military aid to Somalia. Other Arab states, in 
particular Libya, angered Siad Barre by supporting Ethiopia. In 
1981 Somalia broke diplomatic relations with Libya, claiming that 
Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhafi was supporting the SSDF and 
the nascent SNM. Relations were not restored until 1985. 

Throughout the 1980s, Somalia became increasingly dependent 
upon economic aid from the conservative, wealthy, oil-exporting 
states of Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab 
Emirates. This dependence was a crucial factor in the Siad Barre 
regime's decision to side with the United States-led coalition of Arab 
states that opposed Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait 
in 1990. Support for the coalition brought economic dividends: Qa- 
tar canceled further repayment of all principal and interest on out- 
standing loans, and Saudi Arabia offered Somalia a US$70 million 
grant and promised to sell it oil at below prevailing international 
market prices. 

Relations with the United States 

Prior to the Ogaden War, Somalia had been allied with the Soviet 
Union, and its relations with the United States were strained. Large- 
ly because the Soviet Union sided with Ethiopia in the Ogaden 
War, a United States-Somali rapprochement began in 1977 and 
culminated in a military access agreement in 1980 that permitted 
the United States to use naval ports and airfields at Berbera, 
Chisimayu, and Mogadishu, in exchange for military and economic 
aid. The United States subsequently refurbished facilities originally 
developed by the Soviet Union at the Gulf of Aden port of Ber- 
bera. The United States Rapid Deployment Force used Berbera 
as a base for its Operation Bright Star exercises in 1981, and Ameri- 
can military advisers were permanently stationed there one year 
later. Somali military units participated in Operation Bright Star 
joint maneuvers in 1985. The base at Berbera was used in the fall 
of 1990 during the deployment of personnel and supplies to Saudi 
Arabia in preparation for the Persian Gulf War. 


Government and Politics 

Controversy over the Siad Barre government's human rights poli- 
cies clouded the future of United States military cooperation with 
Somalia. Siad Barre 's policy of repression in the north aroused criti- 
cism of his regime in the United States Congress, where the Foreign 
Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives held extensive 
hearings during July 1988 on human rights abuses in Somalia. In 
1989, under congressional pressure, the administration of Presi- 
dent George Bush terminated military aid to Somalia, although 
it continued to provide food assistance and to operate a small In- 
ternational Military Education and Training program (see For- 
eign Military Assistance, ch. 5). In 1990 Washington revealed that 
Mogadishu had been in default on loan repayments for more than 
a year. Therefore, under the terms of the Brooke Amendment, this 
meant that Somalia was ineligible to receive any further United 
States aid. During the height of the fighting in Mogadishu in Janu- 
ary 1991, the United States closed its embassy and evacuated all 
its personnel from the country. The embassy was ransacked by mobs 
in the final days of the Siad Barre regime. The United States recog- 
nized the provisional government shortly after its establishment. 
Since the outbreak of the civil war, the United States has consis- 
tently urged all parties to come together to resolve their dispute 
by peaceful means. The United States government has supported 
the territorial unity of Somalia and as of May 1992 had refused 
to recognize the independence of northern Somalia proclaimed by 
the SNM. 

Other Foreign Relations 

The former colonial powers, Italy and Britain, both maintained 
an interest in Somalia. Italy was more influential, perhaps because 
it had provided extensive development aid to Somalia during the 
1980s. Italy was instrumental in getting preferential treatment for 
Somali exports to the European Economic Community. Italy also 
made considerable, albeit unsuccessful, efforts to resolve the con- 
flict between Siad Barre and his opponents. The last Italian effort, 
in cooperation with Egypt in November and December 1990, failed 
because the USC and SNM refused to meet with any representa- 
tive of the Siad Barre regime. In 1986 Somalia and the Soviet 
Union reestablished diplomatic relations, broken during the Ogaden 

In mid- 1991 Somalia was a member of the United Nations and 
its specialized agencies, the Organization of African Unity, the 
League of Arab States, and the World Bank (see Glossary). 

* * * 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Although no books deal comprehensively with Somali politics 
since the 1977-78 Ogaden War, chapters in several different studies 
provide an analysis of this important period. A History of Modern 
Somalia by I.M. Lewis is an indispensable starting point for gain- 
ing a deeper understanding of Somali politics. Chapters nine and 
ten of the 1988 revised edition deal with the Siad Barre govern- 
ment and are particularly helpful. Parts of chapters four, six, and 
seven of Somalia: Nation in Search of a State, by David D. Laitin and 
Said S. Samatar, provide insight into Siad Barre' s political style, 
the formation of opposition movements, and the conduct of for- 
eign relations. Chapters six, seven, and eight of Ahmed Samatar' s 
Socialist Somalia examine the impact of the Ogaden War on the coun- 
try' s domestic and foreign relations. 

Information on recent and current Somali political affairs can 
be found in several periodicals, including Africa Contemporary Record, 
Africa Today, African Development, Asian and African Studies, Current 
History, Horn of Africa, Journal of Modern African Studies, and Revue 
frangaise d ' etudes politiques afrigaines. (For further information and com- 
plete citations, see Bibliography.) 


Chapter 5. National Security 

Detail from bronze relief on monument in 

Mogadishu depicting deeds of Somali patriot 

Mahammad Abdille Hasan, the legendary "Mad Mullah" 

After Somalia gained independence in i960, its 

military grew steadily, despite the country's status as one of the 
poorest states in sub-Saharan Africa. Largely under Soviet 
patronage, the military expanded from 5,000 troops at indepen- 
dence to 23,000 during the 1977-78 Ogaden War. By 1981 the 
armed forces had 50,000 personnel; by 1990 that number had in- 
creased to 65,000. 

Until the Ogaden War, Somalia possessed one of East Africa's 
best equipped armed forces. However, Ethiopia destroyed much 
of the army's fighting capability during the 1977-78 conflict. To 
rebuild its military, Somalia sought assistance from China and a 
variety of Arab and Western countries, including the United States. 

Somalia's defeat in the Ogaden War and deteriorating internal 
conditions lost the government much of its domestic support. As 
the Mahammad Siad Barre regime became more politically isolat- 
ed, the president and members of his Mareehaan subclan increas- 
ingly dominated the government, the economy, and the armed 
forces. Growing oppression in Somalia forced many critics into ex- 
ile, where they organized opposition groups. A lack of resources 
initially limited the exiles' opposition activity to propaganda cam- 
paigns and occasional minor guerrilla forays into Somalia. 

By the late 1980s, several opposition groups had transformed 
themselves into relatively powerful, clan-based (see Glossary) in- 
surgent movements. Relying on financial assistance from Somali 
exile communities and various foreign governments, the insurgents 
grew in strength and numbers. The armed forces, which eventu- 
ally faced insurgencies throughout Somalia, gradually disintegrated. 
Finally, in early 1991 Siad Barre and many of his closest Maree- 
haan advisers relinquished power and fled Mogadishu. If Somalia 
were to have a future as a single nation, reconstituting the armed 
forces on a more representative basis would be essential to nation- 
al unity and stability. 

International Security Concerns 

From independence until the mid-1980s, Somalia's national secu- 
rity concerns focused largely on the threat posed by its neighbor, 
Ethiopia. After the Ogaden War, Ethiopia used Soviet, Cuban, 
and East European military and technical assistance to establish 
itself as the dominant power in the Horn of Africa. By the mid- 
1980s, Ethiopia's support of Somali insurgent groups posed a 


Somalia: A Country Study 

growing threat to Somalia's internal security. In early 1991, Somali- 
Ethiopian tensions eased as long-established governments fell in 
both Mogadishu and Addis Ababa. By mid- 1992, however, it re- 
mained unclear whether relations between the two countries would 
be characterized by cooperation and peace, or if old arguments over 
the Ogaden's (Ogaadeen) status would renew the hostility between 
Somalia and Ethiopia. 

Irredentism and the Changing Balance of Power 

Somalia's defeat in the Ogaden War, Ethiopian hostility, the 
emergence of an alliance between Addis Ababa and Moscow, 
regional tensions, and periods of international isolation all result- 
ed directly or indirecdy from Somalia's unwillingness to recognize 
political boundaries drawn by British, French, and Italian colonists, 
in conjunction with Ethiopia. Since independence, successive Somali 
governments had sought to reincorporate those Somalis living in 
Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti into Greater Somalia. (Under the 
Siad Barre regime, the five-pointed star on the Somali flag 
represented the northern and southern regions of the republic and 
the "unredeemed territories" in Kenya's North-Eastern Province, 
Ethiopia's Ogaden region, and Djibouti.) In 1960-64, for exam- 
ple, guerrillas supported by the Somali government battled local 
security forces in Kenya and Ethiopia on behalf of Somalia's ter- 
ritorial claims. Then, in 1964, Ethiopian and Somali regular forces 

By late 1964, it had become obvious that the initial campaign 
to unify all Somalis had failed. Ethiopian forces had established 
superiority over the Somalis in the Ogaden, in part because of Ethio- 
pia's ability to conduct air raids on Somali territory. In Kenya the 
government relied on assistance from British counterinsurgency 
experts to control Somali guerrillas in what was then the Northern 
Frontier District (NFD). In late 1964, Kenya's president Jomo 
Kenyatta and Ethiopia's emperor Haile Selassie signed a mutual 
defense agreement aimed at containing Somali aggression. The two 
countries renewed the pact in 1979 and again in 1989. These fac- 
tors, in combination with the opposition of the Organization of Afri- 
can Unity to Somali aims and defense costs that amounted to 30 
percent of the national budget in the mid-1980s, forced Mogadishu 
to reconsider its territorial ambitions. 

Under Mahammad Ibrahim Igaal, Somalia's last civilian gov- 
ernment initiated — and Siad Barre 's military regime initially 
continued — a policy of detente with Somalia's neighbors. During 
the 1970s, however, Somali military strength gradually increased 
as a result of Soviet support. The Soviet Union supplied the Somali 


National Security 

National Army (SNA) with the largest tank force in sub-Saharan 
Africa, transport vehicles — including armored personnel carriers — 
for a largely mechanized infantry, and jet aircraft that included 
MiG-21 fighter-bombers. In 1974 Somalia and the Soviet Union 
formalized their relationship by signing the Treaty of Friendship 
and Cooperation. The Ethiopian army at that time remained twice 
as large as Somalia's 23,000-man force, but because of reduced 
military aid from the United States, the Ethiopians were not as 
well equipped. Furthermore, in 1974 Ethiopia's imperial govern- 
ment was headed toward collapse. In September of that year a group 
of military officers deposed Haile Selassie. Conflict ensued among 
those responsible for his overthrow, and several insurgent groups 
sought to secede from the erstwhile empire. 

Somalia's military buildup, coincident with the turmoil in Ethio- 
pia, temporarily altered the balance of power between the two coun- 
tries. In 1976-77 Somalia attempted to take advantage of the 
situation by supporting a guerrilla campaign by the Western Somali 
Liberation Front (WSLF), a pro-Somali liberation group in the 
Ogaden, to seize the Ogaden from Ethiopia. By the late summer 
of 1977, Somali armored forces and mechanized infantry supported 
by aircraft had invaded the Ogaden, capturing 60 percent of the 
disputed territory within several weeks. 

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had started supporting the Marxist- 
Leninist regime that had emerged in Ethiopia while simultaneously 
attempting to maintain Somalia as a client state. After its attempts 
at mediation failed, the Soviet Union decided to abandon Soma- 
lia. In August 1977, the Soviet Union suspended arms shipments 
to Siad Barre's regime and accelerated military deliveries to Ethio- 
pia. Three months later, Somalia renounced the Treaty of Friend- 
ship and Cooperation, expelled all Soviet advisers, broke diplomatic 
relations with Cuba, and ejected all Soviet personnel from Somalia. 

Following Moscow's decision to support Addis Ababa, Ethio- 
pia received massive amounts of Soviet arms. Along with Soviet 
military advisers, about 15,000 Cuban combat troops also arrived. 
By early 1978, this aid had turned the tide of war in Ethiopia's 
favor. By March 9, 1978, when Siad Barre announced the with- 
drawal of the Somali armed forces from the Ogaden, the Somali 
military had lost 8,000 men — one-third of the SNA, three-quarters 
of its armored units, and half of the Somali Air Force (SAF). 

For all intents and purposes, Ethiopia's victory during the 
Ogaden War ended Mogadishu's dream of recreating Greater 
Somalia. Even before the setback in the Ogaden, Siad Barre had 
relinquished his claim to Djibouti after 95 percent of the voters 
in that country indicated a preference for independence over 


Somalia: A Country Study 

incorporation into Somalia. In 1981 Somali-Kenyan relations im- 
proved after Siad Barre visited Nairobi and indicated that his 
government no longer had any claim to Kenyan territory. In De- 
cember 1984, Somalia and Kenya signed a pact that pledged both 
governments to cease hostilities along their common frontier. Sub- 
sequently, the level of insurgent activity along the border was 
minimal. However, the activities of Somali shiftas, or bandits, and 
ivory poachers and the periodic influx of Somali refugees into Kenya 
continued to strain relations between Mogadishu and Nairobi. 

The Ogaden War: Performance and Implications of Defeat 

The SNA never recovered from its defeat in the Ogaden War. 
The battles to retake and then defend the Ogaden stripped the 
Somali armed forces of many troops, much of their equipment, 
and their Soviet patron. For the next decade, the SNA sought un- 
successfully to improve its capability by relying on a variety of for- 
eign sources, including the United States. The Ogaden War 
therefore remains the best example of the SNA's ability to mount 
and sustain conventional military operations. 

Before the Ogaden War, the most striking feature of the 
23,000-man SNA had been its large armored force, which was 
equipped with about 250 T-34 and T-54/T-55 Soviet-built medi- 
um tanks and more than 300 armored personnel carriers. This 
equipment gave the SNA a tank force more than three times as 
large as Ethiopia's. The prewar SAF also was larger than Ethio- 
pia's air force. In 1976 the SAF had fifty- two combat aircraft, 
twenty-four of which were Soviet-built supersonic MiG-21s. Fac- 
ing them was an Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) of thirty-five to forty 
aircraft. Ethiopia also was in the process of acquiring several United 
States-built Northrop F-5 fighters from Iran. At the outbreak of 
fighting, Ethiopia had approximately sixteen F-5A/Es. 

As chaos spread throughout Ethiopia after Haile Selassie's down- 
fall, Mogadishu increased its support to several pro-Somali liber- 
ation groups in the Ogaden, the strongest of which was the WSLF. 
By late 1975, the WSLF had attacked many Ethiopian outposts 
in the Ogaden. In June 1977, Addis Ababa accused Mogadishu 
of committing SNA units to the fighting. Despite considerable evi- 
dence to the contrary, Somalia denied this charge and insisted that 
only "volunteers" had been given leave from the SNA to fight with 
the WSLF. By late 1977, the combined WSLF-SNA strength in 
the Ogaden probably approached 50,000, of which 15,000 appeared 
to be irregulars. 

After the Somali government committed the SNA to the Ogaden, 
the conflict ceased to be a guerrilla action and assumed the form 


National Security 

of a conventional war in which armor, mechanized infantry, and 
air power played decisive roles. The SNA quickly adapted its or- 
ganization to battlefield realities. The centralized Somali logistics 
system controlled supplies at battalion level (600- to 1,000-man 
units) from Mogadishu, an unwieldy arrangement given Soma- 
lia's limited transportation and communications network (see 
Transportation; Communications, ch. 3). To facilitate operations, 
the logistics center and headquarters for forces fighting in the north- 
ern Ogaden moved to Hargeysa, the SNA's northern-sector head- 
quarters. Before the war, all Somali ground forces had been 
organized into battalions. After the conflict started, however, the 
standard infantry and mechanized infantry unit became the brigade, 
composed of two to four battalions and having a total strength of 
1,200 to 2,000 personnel. 

During the summer of 1977, the SNA-WSLF force achieved 
several victories but also endured some significant defeats. In July 
1977, it captured Gode, on the Shabeelle River about 550 kilome- 
ters inside Ethiopia, and won control of 60 percent of the Ogaden. 
By mid-September 1977, Ethiopia conceded that 90 percent of the 
Ogaden was in Somali hands. The SNA suffered two setbacks in 
August when it tried to capture Dire Dawa and Jijiga. The Ethio- 
pian army inflicted heavy losses on the SNA at Dire Dawa after 
a Somali attack by one tank battalion and a mechanized infantry 
brigade supported by artillery units. At Jijiga the Somalis lost more 
than half of their attacking force of three tank battalions, each of 
which included more than thirty tanks. 

Somalia's greatest victory occurred in mid-September 1977 in 
the second attempt to take Jijiga, when three tank battalions over- 
whelmed the Ethiopian garrison. After inflicting some heavy loss- 
es on Somali armor, Ethiopian troops mutinied and withdrew from 
the town, leaving its defense to the militia, which was incapable 
of slowing the Somali advance. The Ethiopians retreated beyond 
the strategic Marda Pass, the strongest defensive position between 
Jijiga and Harer, leaving the SNA in a commanding position with- 
in the region. Despite this success, several factors prevented a Somali 
victory. Somali tank losses had been heavy in the battles around 
Dire Dawa and Jijiga. Moreover, because the EAF had established 
air superiority over the SAF, it could harass overextended Somali 
supply lines with impunity. The onset of the rainy season ham- 
pered such air attacks; however, the bad weather also bogged down 
Somali reinforcements on the dirt roads. 

The Soviet Union's decision to abandon Somalia in favor of Ethi- 
opia eventually turned the tide of battle in the Ogaden. From Octo- 
ber 1977 through January 1978, about 20,000 WSLF guerrillas 


Somalia: A Country Study 

and SNA forces pressed attacks on Harer, where nearly 50,000 
Ethiopians had regrouped, backed by Soviet-supplied armor and 
artillery and gradually reinforced by 11,000 Cubans and 1,500 
Soviet advisers. Although it fought its way into Harer in Novem- 
ber 1977, the SNA lacked the supplies and manpower to capture 
the city. Subsequently, the Somalis regrouped outside Harer and 
awaited an Ethiopian counterattack. 

As expected, in early February 1978 Ethiopian and Cuban forces 
launched a two-stage counterattack toward Jijiga. Unexpectedly, 
however, a column of Cubans and Ethiopians moving north and 
east crossed the highlands between Jijiga and the Somali border, 
bypassing Somali troops dug in around the Marda Pass. Thus, the 
attacking force was able to assault the Somalis from two sides and 
recapture Jijiga after two days of fighting in which 3,000 Somali 
troops lost their lives. Within a week, Ethiopia had retaken all of 
the Ogaden's major towns. On March 9, 1978, Siad Barre recalled 
the SNA from Ethiopia. 

After the SNA withdrawal, the WSLF reverted to guerrilla tac- 
tics. By May 1980, the rebels had established control over a sig- 
nificant portion of the Ogaden. Eventually, Ethiopia defeated the 
WSLF and the few small SNA units that remained in the region 
after the Somali pullout. In late 1981, however, reports indicated 
that the WSLF continued to conduct occasional hit-and-run attacks 
against Ethiopian targets. 

Postwar Status of the Armed Forces 

In the early 1980s, the Somali armed forces had to adjust to the 
realities of their defeat in the Ogaden War. Somali manpower had 
doubled during the conflict, but the Ethiopian army had destroyed 
a significant amount of Somali equipment. Shortages of military 
hardware, inadequate maintenance, and lack of spare parts for what 
remained of Soviet-supplied equipment limited the effectiveness 
of all units. Better relations between Somalia and the United States 
resolved some of these problems. Between 1983 and 1986, United 
States military assistance to Somalia averaged US$36 to US$40 
million per year (see Foreign Military Assistance, this ch.). This 
aid was insufficient, however, to restore the Somali armed forces 
to their pre-Ogaden War effectiveness. 

As insurgent activity intensified during the late 1980s and the 
Somali government failed to develop additional sources of large- 
scale military assistance, the armed forces slowly deteriorated. By 
1990 the Somali military was in a state of collapse. After Siad Barre 
fled Mogadishu in January 1991, the SNA and all related military 
and security services ceased to exist. Most of their military equipment 


National Security 

fell into the hands of insurgents, clan militiamen, or bandits. The 
status of former military and security personnel varied. Some fled 
abroad to countries such as Kenya or Ethiopia; others returned 
to civilian life or became insurgents, bandits, or clan militia mem- 
bers. A small number remained loyal to Siad Barre, who took refuge 
in southern Somalia and then launched a military campaign to 
regain power. The campaign failed, however, and Siad Barre sought 
exile in Nigeria, where he remained in early 1992. 

Internal Security Concerns 

Somalia has a long history of internal instability; in some in- 
stances, clan feuds have lasted more than a century. Most of this 
turmoil has been associated with disagreements and factionalism 
between and among the major branches of the Somali lineage sys- 
tem, which includes pastoral nomads such as the Dir, Daarood, 
Isaaq, and Hawiye, and agriculturalists such as the Digil and Ra- 
hanwayn (see The Segmentary Social Order, ch. 2). In more re- 
cent times, these historical animosities have expressed themselves 
through the emergence of clan-based dissident and insurgent move- 
ments. Most of these groups grew to oppose Siad Barre 's regime 
because the president refused to make political reforms, unleashed 
a reign of terror against the country's citizenry, and concentrated 
power in the hands of his Mareehaan clan (the Mareehaan belonged 
to the Daarood clan-family). After Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in 
January 1991 , the Somali nation- state collapsed, largely along war- 
ring clan lines. 

Government Security Policy 

In the aftermath of the 1969 coup, the central government 
acquired control of all legislative, administrative, and judicial 
functions. The only legally permitted party was the Somali Revolu- 
tionary Socialist Party (SRSP). In April 1970, Siad Barre autho- 
rized the creation of National Security Courts (NSCs), which shortly 
thereafter tried approximately sixty people: leaders of the previ- 
ous government, businessmen, lawyers, and senior military per- 
sonnel who had failed to support the coup (see Courts, ch. 4). In 
September 1970, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) 
proclaimed that any person who harmed the nation's unity, peace, 
or sovereignty could be sentenced to death. The government also 
promised to punish anyone who spread false propaganda against 
Siad Barre 's regime. 

Until the early 1980s, the Siad Barre regime generally shunned 
capital punishment in favor of imprisonment and reeducation of 
actual, suspected, or potential opponents. The earlier parliamentary 


Somalia: A Country Study 

government had been able to hold people without trial up to ninety 
days during a state of emergency, but the military government re- 
moved most legal restrictions on preventive detention. After the 
coup, a local revolutionary council or the National Security Ser- 
vice (NSS) could detain individuals regarded as dangerous to peace, 
order, good government, or the aims and spirit of the revolution 
(see Intelligence Service; Human Rights, this ch.). Additionally, 
regional governors could order the search and arrest of persons sus- 
pected of a crime or of activities considered threatening to public 
order and security, and could requisition property or services 
without compensation. In 1974 the government began to require 
all civil servants to sign statements of intent to abide by security 
regulations. Furthermore, any contact between foreigners and 
Somali citizens had to be reported to the Ministry of Foreign Af- 
fairs. By the late 1970s, most Somalis were ignoring this latter regu- 

The Somali government became more repressive after an un- 
successful 1971 coup. Officials maintained that the coup attempt 
by some SRC members had sought to protect the interests of the 
trading bourgeoisie and the tribal structure. Many expected that 
the conspirators would receive clemency. Instead, the government 
executed them. Many Somalis found this act inconsistent with Is- 
lamic principles and as a consequence turned against Siad Barre's 

During its first years in power, the SRC sought to bolster na- 
tionalism by undermining traditional Somali allegiance to Islamic 
religious leaders and clan groups. Although it tried to avoid en- 
tirely alienating religious leaders, the government restricted their 
involvement in politics. During the early 1970s, some Islamic lead- 
ers affirmed that Islam could never coexist with scientific social- 
ism; however, Siad Barre claimed that the two concepts were 
compatible because Islam propagated a classless society based on 

In the mid-1970s, the government tried to eliminate a rallying 
point for opposition by substituting allegiance to the nation for tradi- 
tional allegiance to family and clan. Toward this end, the authori- 
ties stressed individual responsibility for all offenses, thereby 
undermining the concept of collective responsibility that existed 
in traditional society and served as the basis of dfcj^-paying (see Glos- 
sary) groups. The government also abolished traditional clan leader- 
ship responsibilities and titles such as sultan and shaykh. 

By the late 1980s, it was evident that Siad Barre had failed to 
create a sense of Somali nationalism. Moreover, he had been un- 
able to destroy the family and clan loyalties that continued to govern 


National Security 

the lives of most Somalis. As antigovernment activities escalated, 
Siad Barre increasingly used force and terror against his opponents. 
This cycle of violence further isolated his regime, caused dissent 
within the SNA, and eventually precipitated the collapse of his 

Sources of Opposition 

From 1969 until the mid-1970s, Siad Barre 's authoritarian re- 
gime enjoyed a degree of popular support, largely because it acted 
with a decisiveness not displayed by the civilian governments of 
the 1960s. Even the 1971 coup attempt failed to affect the stability 
of the government. However, Somalia's defeat in the Ogaden War 
signaled the beginning of a decline in Siad Barre 's popularity that 
culminated in his January 1991 fall from power. 

Before the war, many Somalis had criticized Siad Barre for not 
trying to reincorporate the Ogaden into Somalia immediately af- 
ter Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie's death in 1975. The govern- 
ment was unable to stifle this criticism largely because the Somali 
claim to the Ogaden had overwhelming national support. The re- 
gime's commitment of regular troops to the Ogaden proved high- 
ly popular, as did Siad Barre 's expulsion of the Soviet advisers, 
who had been resented by most Somalis. However, Somalia's defeat 
in the Ogaden War refocused criticism on Siad Barre. 

After the spring 1978 retreat toward Hargeysa, Siad Barre met 
with his generals to discuss the battlefield situation, and ordered 
the execution of six of them for activities against the state. This 
action failed to quell SNA discontent over Siad Barre 's handling 
of the war with Ethiopia. On April 9, 1978, a group of military 
officers (mostly Majeerteen) attempted a coup d'etat. Government 
security forces crushed the plot within hours and subsequently ar- 
rested seventy-four suspected conspirators. After a month-long series 
of trials, the authorities imprisoned thirty- six people associated with 
the coup and executed another seventeen. 

After the war, it was evident that the ruling alliance among the 
Mareehaan, Ogaden, and Dulbahante clans had been broken. The 
Ogaden — the clan of Siad Barre 's mother, which had the most direct 
stake in the war — broke with the regime over the president's war- 
time leadership. To prevent further challenges to his rule, Siad Barre 
placed members of his own clan in important positions in the 
government, the armed forces, the security services, and other state 

Throughout the late 1970s, growing discontent with the regime's 
policies and personalities prompted the defection of numerous 
government officials and the establishment of several insurgent 


Somalia: A Country Study 

movements. Because unauthorized political activity was prohibit- 
ed, these organizations were based abroad. The best known was 
the Somali Salvation Front (SSF), which operated from Ethiopia. 
The SSF had absorbed its predecessor, the Somali Democratic Ac- 
tion Front (SODAF), which had been formed in Rome in 1976. 
Former minister of justice Usmaan Nur Ali led the Majeerteen- 
based SODAF. Lieutenant Colonel Abdillaahi Yuusuf Ahmad, a 
survivor of the 1978 coup attempt, commanded the SSF. Other 
prominent SSF personalities included former minister of educa- 
tion Hasan Ali Mirreh and former ambassador Muse Islan Faarah. 
The SSF, which received assistance from Ethiopia and Libya, 
claimed to command a guerrilla force numbering in the thousands. 
Ethiopia placed a radio transmitter at the SSF's disposal from which 
Radio Kulmis (unity) beamed anti-Siad Barre invective to listeners 
in Somalia. Although it launched a low-intensity sabotage cam- 
paign in 1981, the SSF lacked the capabilities to sustain effective 
guerrilla operations against the SNA. 

The SSF's weakness derived from its limited potential as a rally- 
ing point for opposition to the government. Although the SSF em- 
braced no ideology or political philosophy other than hostility to 
Siad Barre, its nationalist appeal was undermined by its reliance 
on Ethiopian support. The SSF claimed to encompass a range of 
opposition forces, but its leading figures belonged with few excep- 
tions to the Majeerteen clan. 

In October 1981, the SSF merged with the radical-left Somali 
Workers Party (SWP) and the Democratic Front for the Libera- 
tion of Somalia (DFLS) to form the Somali Salvation Democratic 
Front (SSDF). The SWP and DFLS, both based in Aden (then 
the capital of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen — South 
Yemen), had included some former SRSP Central Committee 
members who faulted Siad Barre for compromising Somalia's 
revolutionary goals. An eleven-man committee led the SSDF. 
Yuusuf Ahmad, a former SNA officer and head of the SDF, acted 
as chairman; former SWP leader Idris Jaama Husseen served as 
vice chairman; Abdirahman Aidid Ahmad, former chairman of 
the SRSP Ideology Bureau and founding father of the DFLS, was 
secretary for information. The SSDF promised to intensify the mili- 
tary and political struggles against the Siad Barre regime, which 
was said to have destroyed Somali unity and surrendered to Unit- 
ed States imperialism. Like the SSF, the SSDF suffered from weak 
organization, a close identification with its Ethiopian and Libyan 
benefactors, and its reputation as a Majeerteen party. 

Despite its shortcomings, the SSDF played a key role in fight- 
ing between Somalia and Ethiopia in the summer of 1982. After 


National Security 

an SNA force infiltrated the Ogaden, joined with the WSLF, and 
attacked an Ethiopian army unit outside Shilabo, about 150 kilo- 
meters northwest of Beledweyne, Ethiopia retaliated by launching 
an operation against Somalia. On June 30, 1982, Ethiopian army 
units, together with SSDF guerrillas, struck at several points along 
Ethiopia's southern border with Somalia. They crushed the SNA 
unit in Balumbale and then occupied that village. In August 1982, 
the Ethiopian/SSDF force took the village of Goldogob, about 50 
kilometers northwest of Galcaio. After the United States provided 
emergency military assistance to Somalia, the Ethiopian attacks 
ceased. However, the Ethiopian/SSDF units remained in Balum- 
bale and Goldogob, which Addis Ababa maintained were part of 
Ethiopia that had been liberated by the Ethiopian army. The SSDF 
disputed the Ethiopian claim, causing a power struggle that even- 
tually resulted in the destruction of the SSDF's leadership. 

On October 12, 1985, Ethiopian authorities arrested Ahmad and 
six of his lieutenants after they repeatedly indicated that Balum- 
bale and Goldogob were part of Somalia. The Ethiopian govern- 
ment justified the arrests by saying that Ahmad had refused to 
comply with a SSDF Central Committee decision relieving him 
as chairman. Mahammad Abshir, a party bureaucrat, then assumed 
command of the SSDF. Under his leadership, the SSDF became 
militarily moribund, primarily because of poor relations with Ad- 
dis Ababa. In August 1986, the Ethiopian army attacked SSDF 
units, then launched a war against the movement, and finally jailed 
its remaining leaders. For the next several years, the SSDF exist- 
ed more in name than in fact. In late 1990, however, after Ethio- 
pia released former SSDF leader Ahmad, the movement reemerged 
as a fighting force in Somalia, albeit to a far lesser degree than 
in the early 1980s. 

In April 1981 , a group of Isaaq emigres living in London formed 
the Somali National Movement (SNM), which subsequently be- 
came the strongest of Somalia's various insurgent movements. Ac- 
cording to its spokesmen, the rebels wanted to overthrow Siad 
Barre's dictatorship. Additionally, the SNM advocated a mixed 
economy and a neutral foreign policy, rejecting alignment with the 
Soviet Union or the United States and calling for the dismantling 
of all foreign military bases in the region. In the late 1980s, the 
SNM adopted a pro-Western foreign policy and favored United 
States involvement in a post-Siad Barre Somalia. Other SNM ob- 
jectives included establishment of a representative democracy that 
would guarantee human rights and freedom of speech. Eventual- 
ly, the SNM moved its headquarters from London to Addis Ababa 


Somalia: A Country Study 

to obtain Ethiopian military assistance, which initially was limit- 
ed to old Soviet small arms. 

In October 1981, the SNM rebels elected Ahmad Mahammad 
Culaid and Ahmad Ismaaiil Abdi as chairman and secretary gener- 
al, respectively, of the movement. Culaid had participated in north- 
ern Somali politics until 1975, when he went into exile in Djibouti 
and then in Saudi Arabia. Abdi had been politically active in the 
city of Burao in the 1950s, and, from 1965 to 1967, had served 
as the Somali government's minister of planning. After the authori- 
ties jailed him in 1971 for antigovernment activities, Abdi left Soma- 
lia and lived in East Africa and Saudi Arabia. The rebels also elected 
an eight-man executive committee to oversee the SNM's military 
and political activities. 

On January 2, 1982, the SNM launched its first military opera- 
tion against the Somali government. Operating from Ethiopian 
bases, commando units attacked Mandera Prison near Berbera and 
freed a group of northern dissidents. According to the SNM, the 
assault liberated more than 700 political prisoners; subsequent in- 
dependent estimates indicated that only about a dozen government 
opponents escaped. At the same time, other commando units raided 
the Cadaadle armory near Berbera and escaped with an undeter- 
mined amount of arms and ammunition. 

Mogadishu responded to the SNM attacks by declaring a state 
of emergency, imposing a curfew, closing gasoline stations to civilian 
vehicles, banning movement in or out of northern Somalia, and 
launching a search for the Mandera prisoners (most of whom were 
never found). On January 8, 1982, the Somali government also 
closed its border with Djibouti to prevent the rebels from fleeing 
Somalia. These actions failed to stop SNM military activities. 

In October 1982, the SNM tried to increase pressure against 
the Siad Barre regime by forming a joint military committee with 
the SSDF. Apart from issuing antigovernment statements, the two 
insurgent groups started broadcasting from the former Radio Kul- 
mis station, now known as Radio Halgan (struggle). Despite this 
political cooperation, the SNM and SSDF failed to agree on a com- 
mon strategy against Mogadishu. As a result, the alliance lan- 

In February 1983, Siad Barre visited northern Somalia in a cam- 
paign to discredit the SNM. Among other things, he ordered the 
release of numerous civil servants and businessmen who had been 
arrested for antigovernment activities, lifted the state of emergen- 
cy, and announced an amnesty for Somali exiles who wanted to 
return home. These tactics put the rebels on the political defen- 
sive for several months. In November 1983, the SNM Central 


National Security 

Committee sought to regain the initiative by holding an emergency 
meeting to formulate a more aggressive strategy. One outcome was 
that the military wing — headed by Abdulqaadir Kosar Abdi, for- 
merly of the SNA — assumed control of the Central Committee by 
ousting the civilian membership from all positions of power. 
However, in July 1984, at the Fourth SNM Congress, held in Ethio- 
pia, the civilians regained control of the leadership. The delegates 
also elected Ahmad Mahammad Mahamuud "Silanyo" SNM 
chairman and reasserted their intention to revive the alliance with 
the SSDF. 

After the Fourth SNM Congress adjourned, military activity in 
northern Somalia increased. SNM commandos attacked about a 
dozen government military posts in the vicinity of Hargeysa, Burao, 
and Berbera. According to the SNM, the SNA responded by shoot- 
ing 300 people at a demonstration in Burao, sentencing 7 youths 
to death for sedition, and arresting an unknown number of rebel 
sympathizers. In January 1985, the government executed twenty- 
eight people in retaliation for antigovernment activity. 

Between June 1985 and February 1986, the SNM claimed to 
have carried out thirty operations against government forces in 
northern Somalia. In addition, the SNM reported that it had killed 
476 government soldiers and wounded 263, and had captured eleven 
vehicles and had destroyed another twenty- two, while losing only 
thirty-eight men and two vehicles. Although many independent 
observers said these figures were exaggerated, SNM operations dur- 
ing the 1985-86 campaign forced Siad Barre to mount an interna- 
tional effort to cut off foreign aid to the rebels. This initiative 
included reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Libya in ex- 
change for Tripoli's promise to stop supporting the SNM. 

Despite efforts to isolate the rebels, the SNM continued mili- 
tary operations in northern Somalia. Between July and Septem- 
ber 1987, the SNM initiated approximately thirty attacks, including 
one on the northern capital, Hargeysa; none of these, however, 
weakened the government's control of northern Somalia. A more 
dramatic event occurred when an SNM unit kidnapped a Mede- 
cins Sans Frontieres medical aid team of ten Frenchmen and one 
Djiboutian to draw the world's attention to Mogadishu's policy 
of impressing men from refugee camps into the SNA. After ten 
days, the SNM released the hostages unconditionally. 

Siad Barre responded to these activities by instituting harsh secu- 
rity measures throughout northern Somalia. The government also 
evicted suspected pro-SNM nomad communities from the Somali- 
Ethiopian border region. These measures failed to contain the 
SNM. By February 1988, the rebels had captured three villages 


Somalia: A Country Study 

around Togochale, a refugee camp near the northwestern Somali- 
Ethiopian border. 

Following the rebel successes of 1987-88, Somali-Ethiopian re- 
lations began to improve. On March 19, 1988, Siad Barre and 
Ethiopian president Mengistu Haile-Mariam met in Djibouti to 
discuss ways of reducing tension between the two countries. 
Although little was accomplished, the two agreed to hold further 
talks. At the end of March 1988, the Ethiopian minister of foreign 
affairs, Berhanu Bayih, arrived in Mogadishu for discussions with 
a group of Somali officials, headed by General Ahmad Mahamuud 
Faarah. On April 4, 1988, the two presidents signed a joint com- 
munique in which they agreed to restore diplomatic relations, ex- 
change prisoners of war, start a mutual withdrawal of troops from 
the border area, and end subversive activities and hostile propagan- 
da against each other. 

Faced with a cutoff of Ethiopian military assistance, the SNM 
had to prove its ability to operate as an independent organization. 
Therefore, in late May 1988 SNM units moved out of their Ethio- 
pian base camps and launched a major offensive in northern Soma- 
lia. The rebels temporarily occupied the provincial capitals of Burao 
and Hargeysa. These early successes bolstered the SNM's popu- 
lar support, as thousands of disaffected Isaaq clan members and 
SNA deserters joined the rebel ranks. 

Over the next few years, the SNM took control of almost all of 
northwestern Somalia and extended its area of operations about 
fifty kilometers east of Erigavo. However, the SNM did not gain 
control of the region's major cities (i.e., Berbera, Hargeysa, Burao, 
and Boorama), but succeeded only in laying siege to them. 

With Ethiopian military assistance no longer a factor, the SNM's 
success depended on its ability to capture weapons from the SNA. 
The rebels seized numerous vehicles such as Toyota Land Cruis- 
ers from government forces and subsequently equipped them with 
light and medium weapons such as 12.7mm and 14.5mm machine 
guns, 106mm recoilless rifles, and BM-21 rocket launchers. The 
SNM possessed antitank weapons such as Soviet B-10 tubes and 
RPG-7s. For air defense, the rebels operated Soviet 30mm and 
23mm guns, several dozen Soviet ZU23 2s, and Czech-made twin- 
mounted 30mm ZU30 2s. The SNM also maintained a small fleet 
of armed speed boats that operated from Maydh, fifty kilometers 
northwest of Erigavo, and Xiis, a little west of Maydh. Small arms 
included 120mm mortars and various assault rifles, such as AK-47s, 
M-16s, and G-3s. Despite these armaments, rebel operations, es- 
pecially against the region's major cities, suffered because of an 


National Security 

inadequate logistics system and a lack of artillery, mine-clearing 
equipment, ammunition, and communications gear. 

To weaken Siad Barre's regime further, the SNM encouraged 
the formation of other clan-based insurgent movements and provid- 
ed them with political and military support. In particular, the SNM 
maintained close relations with the United Somali Congress (USC), 
which was active in central Somalia, and the Somali Patriotic Move- 
ment (SPM), which operated in southern Somalia. Both these 
groups sought to overthrow Siad Barre's regime and establish a 
democratic form of government. 

The USC, a Hawiye organization founded in 1989, had suffered 
from factionalism based on subclan rivalries since its creation. 
General Mahammad Faarah Aidid commanded the Habar Gidir 
clan, and Ali Mahdi Mahammad headed the Abgaal clan. The SPM 
emerged in March 1989, after a group of Ogaden officers, led by 
Umar Jess, deserted the SNA and took up arms against Siad Barre. 
Like the USC, the SPM experienced a division among its ranks. 
The moderates, under Jess, favored an alliance with the SNM and 
USC and believed that Somalia should abandon its claims to the 
Ogaden. SPM hardliners wanted to recapture the Ogaden and fa- 
vored a stronger military presence along the Somali-Ethiopian 

On November 19, 1989, the SNM and SPM issued a joint com- 
munique announcing the adoption of a "unified stance on inter- 
nal and external political policy." On September 12, 1990, the 
SNM concluded a similar agreement with the USC. Then, on 
November 24, 1990, the SNM announced that it had united with 
the SPM and the USC to pursue a common military strategy against 
the SNA. Actually, the SNM had concluded the unification agree- 
ment with Aidid, which widened the rift between the two USC 

By the beginning of 1991 , all three of the major rebel organiza- 
tions had made significant military progress. The SNM had all but 
taken control of northern Somalia by capturing the towns of Har- 
geysa, Berbera, Burao, and Erigavo. On January 26, 1991, the 
USC stormed the presidential palace in Mogadishu, thereby es- 
tablishing its control over the capital. The SPM succeeded in over- 
running several government outposts in southern Somalia. 

The SNM-USC-SPM unification agreement failed to last after 
Siad Barre fled Mogadishu. On January 26, 1991, the USC formed 
an interim government, which the SNM refused to recognize. On 
May 18, 1991, the SNM declared the independence of the Republic 
of Somaliland. The USC interim government opposed this decla- 
ration, arguing instead for a unified Somalia. Apart from these 


Somalia: A Country Study 

political disagreements, fighting broke out between and within the 
USC and SPM. The SNM also sought to establish its control over 
northern Somalia by pacifying clans such as the Gadabursi and 
the Dulbahante. To make matters worse, guerrilla groups prolifer- 
ated; by late 1991 , numerous movements vied for political power, 
including the United Somali Front (Iise), Somali Democratic Al- 
liance (Gadabursi), United Somali Party (Dulbahante), Somali 
Democratic Movement (Rahanwayn), and Somali National Front 
(Mareehaan). The collapse of the nation-state system and the emer- 
gence of clan-based guerrilla movements and militias that became 
governing authorities persuaded most Western observers that na- 
tional reconciliation would be a long and difficult process. 

History and Development of the Armed Forces 

Since independence, the Somali military establishment had un- 
dergone several changes. From the early 1960s to 1977, the period 
when good relations existed between Somalia and the Soviet Un- 
ion, the Somali military had the largest armored and mechanized 
forces in sub-Saharan Africa, and the SAF and the Somali navy 
were among the region's best. However, the outbreak of the 
1977-78 Ogaden War and the withdrawal of Soviet military ad- 
visers and technicians had a crippling effect on the Somali mili- 
tary. After the emergence of the United States-Somalia alliance, 
Mogadishu reorganized the army so that it would be based on in- 
fantry, rather than on mechanized forces. As part of this restruc- 
turing, the military's overall personnel strength grew from about 
23,000 — the size of the military during the Ogaden War — to ap- 
proximately 50,000 in 1981, and about 65,000 in early 1990. But 
by late 1990, the Somali military establishment was in a state of 
disintegration. In large part because of dismay at Somalia's increas- 
ingly poor human rights record, foreign military assistance had been 
reduced to a minimum. Desertions and battlefield defeats had 
caused a decline in the military's personnel strength to about 10,000. 
By the time insurgent forces took the capital in January 1991, the 
Somali military had ceased to exist as a fighting force. 

The Warrior Tradition and Development of a Modern Army 

Historically, Somali society accorded prestige to the warrior 
(waranle — see Glossary) and rewarded military prowess. Except for 
a man of religion (wadad; pi., wadaddo — see Glossary), and they 
were few in number, all Somali males were considered potential 
warriors. As a result, a culture of military readiness flourished 
throughout a long history of foreign invasion, colonial occupation, 
domestic conflict, and wars with neighboring countries. 


Street scene, Mogadishu 
Mogadishu scene reflecting damage from civil war, 1991 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Warfare always had been an important factor in relations with 
outsiders such as the Ethiopian Christians and the Oromo and even 
with other Somali clans. The lack of modern weapons, however, 
prevented the Somalis from successfully resisting the imposition 
of European colonial rule. Antagonists in intra-Somali conflicts 
generally belonged to groups bound by their commitment to pay 
or receive diya. Because the entire group would be considered 
responsible for paying diya to compensate for damages inflicted, 
and would receive diya for its own losses, a war would begin only 
with the unanimous approval of its likely participants. A meeting 
of the elders of the warring groups was the usual means of restor- 
ing peace. The elders would determine which group was responsi- 
ble for starting the war and would decide compensation, usually 
livestock, for damages incurred. The group judged responsible for 
starting the war normally would be the only one fined unless it 
emerged the victor. In a jihad (holy war) against infidels and in 
most conflicts against non- Somalis, such rules would not apply. 

The number of warriors who belonged to each party tradition- 
ally determined the strength of rival clans and diya-paying groups. 
However, after the introduction of firearms in the Horn of Africa 
in the late nineteenth century, firepower became the primary de- 
terminant. Although Somalis may have used matchlock guns as 
early as the sixteenth century, firearms became numerous in the 
region only in the 1890s, when various European nations and arms 
merchants began supplying them to Ethiopian emperor Menelik 
II. Shipped through the port of Djibouti, some of these weapons 
fell into Somali hands and came into use against the Ethiopians 
and the British in Sayyid Mahammad Abdille Hasan's 1899-1920 
jihad. After 1920 the Italian and British colonial governments pur- 
sued a policy of disarming Somali nomads. For several years be- 
fore independence, however, nomads frequently were more heavily 
armed than the colonial forces responsible for maintaining public 

In 1884 Britain declared a protectorate over northern Somaliland. 
During its first sixteen years, the colonial administration relied on 
naval landing parties, detachments from the Aden garrison, and 
a small local police force to maintain order. The emergence in 1900 
of Mahammad Abdille Hasan (the ''Mad Mullah") and his band 
of about 3,000 dervishes represented the first serious challenge to 
colonial rule in British Somaliland (see Sayyid Mahammad' s Der- 
vish Resistance to Colonial Occupation, ch. 1). In response, the 
British deployed to Berbera the Central Africa Rifles, 2d Battal- 
ion, which included 16 British officers, 1 British warrant officer, 


National Security 

30 Sikh, and 862 African troops, to prevent Hasan from crossing 
into British Somaliland from his base in eastern Ethiopia. 

After the battalion left Somalia in December 1900, Captain 
EJ.E. Swayne raised the Somali Levy, a force that included 1,000 
infantry and 500 mounted men commanded by 20 British officers 
and 50 Punjabi havildars (drill instructors). Armed with Enfield ri- 
fles, swords, bayonets, and Maxim guns, the Somali Levy was one 
of the region's best trained military units. In 1901 the British 
redesignated the Somali Levy as the 6th King's African Rifles 
(KAR). They disbanded the unit in 1902, reactivated it in 1903, 
reorganized it in 1904, and converted it to an all-Indian unit in 
1905, when the colonial administration started drafting Somalis 
into a new standing militia. 

Between 1900 and 1904, the British launched four unsuccessful 
campaigns against Hasan. After 1904 Hasan moved to Italian 
Somaliland. When he returned to the British sphere in 1909, the 
colonial administration reinforced the 6th KAR with an Indian bat- 
talion; the standing militia and 300 police also supported military 
operations against Hasan. In 1910, after failing to defeat Hasan, 
the British relinquished control of the interior, withdrew to the coast, 
and disbanded the 6th KAR and the standing militia. 

For the next two years, British administrators in Somaliland ar- 
gued for a more assertive policy. Finally, in June 1912 the British 
government approved the formation of the 150-man Camel Corps, 
which operated within an eighty-kilometer radius of Berbera to 
counter Hasan's hit-and-run tactics. There also were 320 Aden 
troops and 200 Indians from a disbanded contingent of the 6th KAR 
to support the Camel Corps. 

Just before the outbreak of World War I, the British reorganized 
the protectorate's military establishment. The Camel Corps be- 
came the Somaliland Camel Corps. The British also increased the 
unit's size by enlisting 450 Somalis, with a 150-man Somaliland 
Indian Contingent in reserve. The authorities organized this force 
into two camel companies and one cavalry company; eighteen Brit- 
ish officers seconded from the Indian and regular armies command- 
ed the force. A 400-man Somaliland Indian Contingent (less 150 
assigned to the Somaliland Camel Corps) and a temporary garri- 
son of 400 Indian infantrymen completed the protectorate's military. 

In 1920 a combined British land and air offensive — which in- 
cluded the Somaliland Camel Corps, Somaliland Police, and ele- 
ments from the 2d and 6th KAR and an Indian battalion — finally 
defeated Hasan's army. Despite this defeat, many Somalis con- 
tinued to hail Hasan as a warrior hero and the source of modern 
Somali nationalism. In 1923 the colonial authorities attached the 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Somaliland Camel Corps to the KAR. The unit, whose nucleus 
remained non-Somali, relied on Yao askaris (East African native 
soldiers) from the 1st KAR to fill its ranks. In the early 1930s, the 
Somaliland Camel Corps consisted of one camel and one pony com- 
pany, both staffed by Somalis, and one Yao mechanized infantry 

In 1940 Italian forces overran British Somaliland, which had been 
defended by the Somaliland Camel Corps and five British, Indi- 
an, and African battalions. Before withdrawing from Somaliland, 
the British disbanded the Somaliland Camel Corps. After defeat- 
ing the Italians in 1941, the British reformed the Somaliland Camel 
Corps and created two battalions, the 71st and 72d (Somali) KAR 
battalions, both of which eventually were disbanded after World 
War II. In 1943 the colonial authorities converted the Somaliland 
Camel Corps into an armored car regiment. The following year, 
elements in this unit mutinied; as a result, the British permanent- 
ly disbanded the Somaliland Camel Corps. 

The history of Somalia's postcolonial armed forces began in 1941, 
when the British formed an irregular force known as the Somali 
Prisoner of War Guards. The next year, the colonial authorities 
renamed the unit the Somali Companies; in 1943 the British redesig- 
nated the unit as the Somaliland Scouts. During the war, the Brit- 
ish used this force to maintain lines of communication and patrol 
the colony's frontiers. After 1945 the Somaliland Scouts, which 
never belonged to the KAR, performed internal security duties. 
In 1960 the British assigned the Somaliland Scouts to Somalia's 
independent government; the unit subsequentiy formed the nucleus 
of the Somali National Army (SNA). 

On the eve of independence, the provisional government in the 
Italian-administered trust territory requested permission from the 
United Nations (UN) Trusteeship Council to establish a national 
army to protect its borders. The UN agreed, and, a few months 
before independence, the provisional government created a small 
army from the Somali Police Force's Mobile Group (Darawishta 
Poliska — commonly known as the Darawishta). At the time, the 
trust territory joined with British Somaliland to form the Somali 
Republic, troops from the Darawishta combined with those of the 
Somaliland Scouts to form the 5,000-man SNA. Its first commander 
was Colonel Daud Abdullaahi Hersi, who had served in the Somalia 
Gendarmerie, the British Military Administration's police force. 
He was succeeded at his death in 1965 by Siad Barre. 

Even before the 1969 coup, the SNA played a central role in 
the foreign policy process. Although the 1961 constitution renounced 


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war as a means of settling international disputes, it also urged the 
amalgamation of Somali-inhabited territories in Ethiopia, Djibouti, 
and Kenya into a Greater Somalia. The government also deployed 
the SNA in support of Somali irredentism in Ethiopia. 

The SNA was battle- tested in 1964 when the conflict with Ethio- 
pia over the Somali-inhabited Ogaden erupted into warfare. On 
June 16, 1963, Somali guerrillas started an insurgency at Hodayo, 
in eastern Ethiopia, a watering place north of Werder, after Ethio- 
pian emperor Haile Selassie rejected their demand for self- 
government in the Ogaden. The Somali government initially re- 
fused to support the guerrilla forces, which eventually numbered 
about 3,000. However, in January 1964, after Ethiopia sent rein- 
forcements to the Ogaden, Somali forces launched ground and air 
attacks across the Ethiopian border and started providing assistance 
to the guerrillas. The EAF responded with punitive strikes across 
its southwestern frontier against Feerfeer, northeast of Beledweyne, 
and Galcaio. On March 6, 1964, Somalia and Ethiopia agreed to 
a cease-fire; at the end of the month, the two sides signed an ac- 
cord in Khartoum, Sudan, agreeing to withdraw their troops from 
the border, cease hostile propaganda, and start peace negotiations. 
Somalia also terminated its support of the guerrillas. 

Despite its failure to incorporate the Ogaden into a Greater Soma- 
lia, the SNA continued to enjoy widespread support. In the late 
1960s, for example, most Somalis believed that the SNA was less 
influenced by clan divisions and corruption than the civilian sec- 
tor. The military also had succeeded in integrating British- and 
Italian-trained units more rapidly than had civilian institutions. 
The armed forces, moreover, maintained contact with the people 
through civic-action projects and public relations programs. An 
army- trained, quasi-military youth group called the Young Pioneers 
worked in several agricultural and construction projects connect- 
ed with national development ventures. 

The SNA's reputation soared during the early stages of the 
1977-78 Ogaden War. After Ethiopia defeated Somalia, however, 
public support for the military waned. As opposition to Siad Barre's 
regime intensified, the SNA became more and more isolated. Dur- 
ing the late 1980s, various international human rights organiza- 
tions accused the armed forces of committing crimes against 
civilians, dissidents, and government opponents. Cosdy counter- 
insurgency campaigns in northern, central, and southern Somalia 
gradually sapped the military's strength. After Siad Barre fled 
Mogadishu in January 1991, the SNA ceased to exist. As of mid- 
1992, although the SNM and the USC had announced their in- 
tention to reconstitute professionally trained national armies in their 


Somalia: A Country Study 

respective areas of operation — northern and south-central Soma- 
lia, respectively, no progress had been made toward this goal. A 
lack of resources and expertise, however, would almost certainly 
prevent both groups from achieving their objectives over the short 

The Armed Forces in National Life 

The armed forces traditionally had enjoyed considerable pres- 
tige in Somali society. The military's early popularity was reflect- 
ed in the fact that its numbers were maintained without resort to 
conscription. Chronic manpower shortages, however, compelled 
the government to institute a draft in 1984 (see Manpower, Train- 
ing, and Conditions of Service, this ch.). For most of its post- 
independence history, the military had been involved in conflicts 
against its neighbors or against domestic insurgent groups. 

The Military and the Government 

During most of Somalia's early postindependence history, the 
SNA stayed out of politics. The only exception occurred in 1961, 
when a group of British-trained officers who objected to Italian in- 
fluence on the military attempted to overthrow the government. 
In 1969 the SNA's apolitical stance changed when Major General 
Mahammad Siad Barre seized power. After abolishing the National 
Assembly of the Republic, he established the SRC, which was made 
up of military and police officers. This military junta relied on the 
largely civilian Council of the Secretaries of State to administer 
many of the country's ministries. 

To enhance its image, the SRC intervened in nearly every aspect 
of Somali society. To reduce government corruption, Siad Barre 
instituted a nationwide campaign to make civil servants accounta- 
ble. He also appointed a police general to head the Ministry of 
Interior, which controlled the means of enforcing government de- 
cisions and appointing military personnel to senior positions in dis- 
trict and provincial offices and in Somali embassies. In 1971 the 
SRC ordered senior civil servants to attend a three-month course 
at Camp Halane, Mogadishu, where they wore military uniforms 
and underwent military training. The military junta also recruit- 
ed young men and women into a paramilitary organization called 
Victory Pioneers (see People's Militia, this ch.). In the foreign policy 
arena, Siad Barre adopted an anti-United States stance, ordered 
the Peace Corps out of the country, and accused Washington of 

In 1976 the government consolidated its power by creating the 
Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), which emerged as 


Donkey carts passing United Nations refugee relief truck damaged in 

crossfire, 1991 

War-damaged houses in Hargeysa, a major city in northern Somalia, 1991 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

the basis for political authority. Furthermore, Siad Barre allowed 
the NSS to jail or harass dissidents, suppress freedom of speech, 
and create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion throughout Soma- 
lia. In 1980 a constitutional amendment empowered the SRC to 
resolve all state security and national interest issues during a 
declared state of emergency. 

Opposition to Siad Barre 's dictatorship increased during the mid- 
and late 1980s (see Sources of Opposition, this ch.). An increas- 
ing number of Somalis perceived the government and the nation's 
armed forces as enemies of the people. Siad Barre' s refusal to in- 
stitute reforms and include more people in the political process even- 
tually led to his downfall and the dissolution of the armed forces. 

The Military and the Economy 

Under the Siad Barre regime, the army command, in conjunc- 
tion with the Ministry of Defense, annually assessed the military's 
needs. The Ministry of Defense then passed budget recommenda- 
tions to Siad Barre, who made final budget decisions. 

With the formation of the SNA, the cost of maintaining the mili- 
tary establishment became the largest item in the national budget. 
During the first decade after independence, military expenditure 
increased at an average rate of more than 9 percent a year; more- 
over, defense costs consistently exceeded the combined amounts 
budgeted for health and education. 

Between 1961 and 1979, Somalia imported approximately 
US$660 million in arms. During this same period, the SNA's per- 
sonnel strength increased from 4,000 to 54,000. Although precise 
figures were unavailable, Somalia's military expenditures totaled 
about US$44.5 million annually for the 1980-90 decade. 

Mission, Organization, and Strength 

Since independence the armed forces' mission has been to pro- 
tect the country's territorial integrity from foreign aggression and 
to maintain internal security. In 1990 the defense establishment 
consisted mainly of ground forces. Organizationally it was com- 
posed of the SNA and its subordinate air, air defense, and naval 
elements. The military command structure extended from Siad 
Barre, president and commander in chief of the armed forces, 
through the minister of defense to commanders who exercised 
authority over forces stationed in the country's six military sectors. 

The ground forces were organized into twelve divisions. Allo- 
cated among the divisions were four tank brigades, forty-five 
mechanized and infantry brigades, four commando brigades, one 


National Security 

surface-to-air missile brigade, three field artillery brigades, thirty 
field battalions, and one air defense battalion. 

Military equipment was a mixture of old weapons of Soviet and 
United States origin, none of which could have withstood an at- 
tack from the better armed Ethiopian forces. Serviceability of all 
types of equipment was extremely poor, largely because of inade- 
quate maintenance capability. As a result, foreign military advisers 
or technicians performed nearly all maintenance tasks. Included 
in the SNA inventory were Centurion, M-41, M-47, T-34, and 
T-54/T-55 tanks; BRDM-2 and AML-90 reconnaissance vehi- 
cles; BTR-40/-50/-60/-152, Fiat 6614/6616, and BMR-600 ar- 
mored personnel carriers; 100mm, 105mm, 122mm, and 155mm 
(M-198) towed artillery; 82mm and 120mm mortars; Milan TOW 
anti-tank guided weapons; 89mm rocket launchers; and 106mm 
recoilless rifles. 

The Somali Air Force (SAF), initially known as the Somali Aero- 
nautical Corps, operated most of its aircraft from bases near 
Mogadishu and Hargeysa. Its mission was to support ground forces. 
Since the Ogaden War, the SAF's performance had been hindered 
by inadequate equipment, lack of spare parts, and poor main- 
tenance. During the late 1980s, however, the SAF managed to 
deploy some of its fighter aircraft against rebels in northern Somalia. 
Some of these aircraft were kept operational by Zimbabwean con- 
tract personnel. In 1990 the SAF was organized into three fighter 
ground-attack squadrons equipped with J-6 and Hawker Hunter 
aircraft; three fighter squadrons equipped with MiG-21MF and 
MiG-17 aircraft; a counterinsurgency squadron equipped with 
SF-260W aircraft; a transport squadron equipped with An-2, 
An-24, An-26, BN-2, C-212, and G-222 aircraft; and a helicop- 
ter squadron equipped with Mi-4, Mi-8, and Agusta-Bell aircraft. 
The SAF also possessed a variety of training aircraft such as the 
MiG-15UTI, the SF-260W, the Yak-11, and the Cessna. The SAF 
used Somali Airlines aircraft to ferry troops and supplies to war 

The Air Defense Forces consisted of seven brigades, four of which 
were equipped with SA-2, SA-3, and SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, 
none of which were believed to be operational in mid- 1992. The 
inventories of the other three units included 20mm, 23mm, 37mm, 
40mm, 57mm, and 100mm air defense guns. The Air Defense 
Forces also possessed P-12, P-30, P-35, P-15, and Westinghouse 
AN/TPS-43F radars with AN/UPX-23 and AN/UPA-59A IFF. 

In 1965 the Soviet Union helped Somalia establish a navy. As 
part of its mission to help SNA forces maintain coastal security, 
the navy maintained bases at Berbera, Mogadishu, and Chisimayu, 


Somalia: A Country Study 

and a radar site at Merca. In 1990 the naval inventory included 
two Soviet Osa-II missile-armed fast attack craft, four Soviet Mol 
PFT torpedo-armed fast attack craft, and several patrol craft. The 
Somali navy also possessed a Soviet Polnocny-class landing ship 
capable of carrying five tanks and 120 soldiers, and four smaller 
mechanized landing craft. Much of this equipment had been un- 
serviceable since the departure of Soviet military personnel in 1977. 
The navy was not operational from 1991 onward. 

Paramilitary forces, which reported to the president via the 
minister of state, supplemented the SNA. These included a 
1,500-man elite border guard; the 20,000-man People's Militia; 
and the 8,000-man Somali Police Force (SPF), which had an air 
unit based in Mogadishu consisting of two Dornier Do-28D2 air- 
craft, neither of which was believed to be operational in mid- 1992 
(see Somali Police Force, this ch.). 

In the early 1980s, the Somali armed forces were organized and 
deployed to prevent an Ethiopian attack. By the end of the decade, 
however, the military concentrated its activities on maintaining in- 
ternal security. Antigovernment resistance originated from vari- 
ous clan-based guerrilla groups that defended their interests against 
outsiders, each other, and Siad Barre's soldiers. The availabil- 
ity of weapons in the Horn of Africa and the ability to obtain mili- 
tary aid from foreign nations and Somali expatriate communities 
enabled the rebels to wage a protracted guerrilla war against 

Manpower, Training, and Conditions of Service 

Despite the social and economic benefits associated with mili- 
tary service, the Somali armed forces began to suffer chronic man- 
power shortages only a few years after independence. The 
government attempted to solve this problem by instituting obliga- 
tory military service in 1984. Conscription affected men from eigh- 
teen to forty years of age and lasted for two years. Opposition to 
conscription and to the counterinsurgency campaigns against guer- 
rilla groups resulted in widespread evasion of military service. As 
a result, during the late 1980s the government normally met man- 
power requirements by impressing men into military service. This 
practice alienated an increasing number of Somalis who wanted 
the government to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts 
that were slowly destroying Somali society. Traditionally, the Siad 
Barre regime had followed a policy of mixing recruits from differ- 
ent parts of the country in order to cultivate nationalism among the 
soldiers. However, as the ongoing counterinsurgencies further iso- 
lated the regime, members of Siad Barre's subclan, the Mareehaan, 


National Security 

increasingly dominated senior military positions. As a result, by 
1990 many Somalis looked upon the armed forces as Siad Barre's 
personal army. This perception eventually destroyed the military's 
reputation as a national institution. 

Throughout the postindependence period, the Somali armed 
forces relied on reserves to help defend national security and 
preserve internal stability. In 1961, for example, the government 
created the Women's Auxiliary Corps. Qualified enlistees under- 
went a five-month period of basic training and instruction in typ- 
ing, record keeping, and related subjects. During their two-year 
enlistment, Somali women worked in a variety of positions associat- 
ed with administration, personnel, and military welfare. Most 
Women's Auxiliary Corps personnel served in army headquar- 
ters in Mogadishu or in subordinate headquarters in the field. 

In 1964 border clashes with Ethiopia prompted the Somali 
government to authorize the organization of a reserve force. The 
National Assembly therefore passed legislation mobilizing about 
2,000 volunteers to be trained by the army at special camps in the 
regional capitals. After determining that these men would not be 
needed in the border war, Mogadishu released them from active 
duty. Although they carried identity cards, these reservists received 
neither pay nor training and had no official status. 

In 1967 the Somali authorities established a Home Guard and 
called up 3,000 men for six months of training. After completing 
their tours of duty, they received discharges and joined a reserve 
pool. The government then called another 3,000 men for the next 
six months. 

In addition to the reserve forces, irregulars also augmented the 
military. After its defeat in the Ogaden War, Somalia organized 
paramilitary units in the country's many refugee communities. 
Mogadishu also encouraged the creation of clan militias, especial- 
ly among Daarood civilians. The SNA trained and financed both 
groups. Additionally, the Somali government recruited nomads and 
Ogaden refugees into the WSLF, the insurgent movement that 
sought to regain the Ogaden from Ethiopia. The use of irregulars 
did little to improve Somalia's military capabilities; indeed, these 
groups became a political liability to Siad Barre's regime because 
they brutalized large numbers of civilians. 

The Somali armed forces always had depended on foreign train- 
ing. Many high-ranking Somali officers had served in the British 
and Italian colonial armies and some had received training at Italian 
military and police academies. From the early 1960s until 1977, 
the Soviet Union provided most officer training. By the mid-1970s, 


Somalia: A Country Study 

as many as 60 percent of all active-duty officers had received Soviet 
training. The SNA used Soviet methods of organization and tactics. 

Beginning in the early 1980s, many Somali officers started at- 
tending one of two military schools in Mogadishu. The Siad Barre 
Military Academy offered general instruction, and the Ahmad Gu- 
ray War College was a staff school for senior officers. Noncom- 
missioned officers attended the General Daoud Military Academy 
in Chisimayu. The Weapons School provided courses in special- 
ties such as field artillery, transportation, and communications. 
The Somali armed forces also maintained instruction centers for 
personnel from the engineering, railway, and paratroop-commando 
corps. Despite the existence of these academies and schools, the 
Somali military relied on foreign training to maintain sophisticat- 
ed weapons systems and to improve the technical and leadership 
skills of its personnel. After the breakup of the Somali- Soviet alli- 
ance, the SNA largely depended on the United States, Saudi Ara- 
bia, France, and Italy for such training. Following the fall of Siad 
Barre in January 1991 and the disintegration of the armed forces, 
military training ceased. 

Foreign Military Assistance 

Throughout its history, Somalia has had to rely on foreign sources 
to equip and help maintain its military establishment. During the 
colonial period, Britain and Italy relied on military force to con- 
solidate their respective positions in Somalia. These two nations 
then established and outfitted indigenous military units to help 
preserve internal security in their spheres of influence. 

Shortly after independence, Somalia determined that its national 
interests required development of a 20,000-man army. Because of 
its weak economy, however, the Somali government rarely has been 
able purchase materiel outright. Instead, it has had to depend on 
donor countries whose assistance has been motivated by their own 
national interests. Somalia initially sought support from the United 
States. However, Washington argued that a 5,000-man army would 
be sufficient to maintain Mogadishu's internal security. Somali 
leadership, determined to press its irredentist claims against neigh- 
bors in the Horn of Africa, therefore looked elsewhere for military 

In 1962 the Soviet Union agreed to grant a US$32 million loan 
to modernize the Somali army, and expand it to 14,000 person- 
nel. Moscow later increased the amount to US$55 million. The 
Soviet Union, seeking to counter United States influence in the 
Horn of Africa, made an unconditional loan and fixed a generous 
twenty-year repayment schedule. 


National Security 

During the rest of the 1960s, the Soviet Union provided Soma- 
lia with a substantial number of T-34 tanks, armored personnel 
carriers, MiG-15 and MiG-17 aircraft, small arms, and ammu- 
nition. Approximately 300 Soviet military advisers deployed to 
Somalia to train the army, and about 500 Somali pilots, officers, 
and technicians received training in the Soviet Union. Until Siad 
Barre seized power in 1969, Somalia's Western orientation and 
small amounts of United States and West German aid to the Somali 
police force limited the impact of Soviet military assistance. After 
the coup, however, Siad Barre embraced scientific socialism, and 
the Soviet Union became Somalia's major supplier of military 

Over the next eight years, the Somali-Soviet military relation- 
ship prospered. In 1972 Defense Minister Andrei Grechko visited 
Somalia and signed an agreement to improve and modernize the 
port of Berbera in return for Soviet access to the facility. The Soviet 
Union eventually built Berbera into a base that included a missile 
storage facility for the Soviet navy, an airfield with runways near- 
ly 5,000 meters long and capable of handling large bombers, and 
extensive radar and communications facilities. Access to Berbera 
gave the Soviet Union a presence in the strategically important In- 
dian Ocean-Persian Gulf region to counter United States military 
activities in the area. Berbera acquired additional importance when 
Egypt expelled all Soviet advisers in July 1972. 

After signing the 1974 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation 
with Moscow, Mogadishu started taking delivery of numerous 
sophisticated weapon systems, including MiG-21 jet fighters, T-54 
tanks, a SAM-2 missile defense system for Mogadishu, and modern 
torpedo and missile-armed fast attack and landing craft for the navy. 
Soviet military advisers increased in number to about 1,500, sup- 
plemented by approximately 50 Cubans. The Soviet Union also 
trained and organized the Somali army's intelligence apparatus and 
the NSS. By the time Siad Barre terminated the Treaty of Friend- 
ship and Cooperation with Moscow and expelled all Soviet advisers 
in 1977, about 2,400 Somali military personnel had undergone 
training in the Soviet Union and another 150 in Eastern Europe. 

Somalia also relied on the Muslim world for military assistance. 
Somalia's ideological ties with the Islamic world reinforced mutu- 
al interests shared with several Muslim states, most notably Egypt, 
Saudi Arabia, and Iran, and provided the basis for military cooper- 
ation. In the 1960s, Cairo trained the Somali army and navy. 

During the Ogaden War, Egypt provided approximately US$30 
million in military assistance to Siad Barre 's regime. After the con- 
flict ended, Egypt supplied ammunition and spare parts for some 


Somalia: A Country Study 

of Somalia's Soviet-made equipment, such as T-54/T-55 tanks and 
armored personnel carriers. After the 1982 renewal of hostilities 
between Somalia and Ethiopia, Egypt delivered T-54 and T-55 
tanks, 37mm antiaircraft guns, and ammunition. Thereafter, Egypt 
furnished more spare parts for Somalia's Soviet-made equipment, 
opened its military schools to Somali personnel, and, until the late 
1980s, maintained a small military training team in Somalia. 

Like Egypt, Saudi Arabia provided military assistance to Somalia 
in an effort to keep that country stable, conservative, and pro- 
Western. After Somalia joined the League of Arab States (Arab 
League) in 1974, Saudi Arabia, supported by Iran, tried to weaken 
the Somali-Soviet alliance by making a US$75 million aid pack- 
age contingent on a reduction of Soviet activities in Somalia. When 
Siad Barre rejected this condition, Riyadh withdrew the offer. When 
Somalia broke with the Soviet Union in 1977, Saudi Arabia re- 
warded Somalia by paying for old stocks of Egyptian and Sudanese 
weapons, which were then sent to Mogadishu. Until Siad Barre 's 
downfall, Riyadh provided Mogadishu with a variety of weapons, 
including armored and reconnaissance vehicles, small arms, and 
ammunition. Additionally, Saudi Arabia trained SNA personnel. 

Other Middle East states also supplied military assistance to 
Somalia. During the Ogaden War, for example, Iraq, Iran, and 
Jordan provided small arms and ammunition to the SNA. In 1982 
Kuwait delivered forty Centurion tanks to Somalia. The United 
Arab Emirates and Oman equipped the SAF with Hawker Hun- 
ter fighters and Britten Norman Defender transports. Furthermore, 
funds from Islamic states enabled the acquisition of numerous 
weapons, the most notable of which was China's F-6 fighter-bomber 
in 1981. 

The United States and several West European countries refused 
to supply weapons to Somalia as long as that country remained 
close to the Soviet Union. Once it became clear that a rift had de- 
veloped between Somalia and the Soviet Union because of the lat- 
ter' s warming relations with Ethiopia, Washington adopted a new 
policy toward Siad Barre 's regime. On July 26, 1977, the Depart- 
ment of State announced that the United States, Britain, and France 
were prepared to provide arms to Somalia. Approximately one year 
later, however, Washington reversed itself because of Mogadishu's 
decision to use military force to try to incorporate Ethiopia's Ogaden 
region into Somalia. According to the United States and most West 
European countries, no military equipment would be transferred 
to Somalia until Mogadishu withdrew its forces from the Ogaden. 
Even after the SNA evacuated the Ogaden and Siad Barre promised 


National Security 

to respect the boundaries of neighboring states, it was more than 
two years before the United States provided arms to Somalia. 

The United States decision to begin a military assistance pro- 
gram in Somalia grew out of Washington's desire to bolster its 
presence in the Indian Ocean-Persian Gulf region after Moham- 
mad Reza Pahlavi, the shah of Iran, fell from power in 1979. In 
August 1980, Washington and Mogadishu signed an agreement 
whereby the former received access to Somali ports and airfields 
in Berbera, Mogadishu, and Chisimayu in exchange for provid- 
ing US$40 million in defensive military equipment over the next 
two years. This equipment included three TPS-43 long-range air 
defense radars, twelve M-167 (towed) Vulcan 20mm air defense 
guns, and associated communications gear, spare parts, and train- 
ing. The agreement did not become official until February 1981 
because of insistence by the United States Congress on the veri- 
fied withdrawal of Somali troops from the Ogaden. 

Over the next few years, the United States increased its military 
assistance to Somalia. In 1982, for example, equipment sales and 
gifts amounted to US$14.3 million; on July 24 of that year, the 
United States responded to an Ethiopian attack on Somalia by 
providing the Siad Barre regime with antitank weapons, radars, 
air defense guns, small arms, and ammunition. In 1983 United 
States military aid totaled US$21.2 million; in 1984, US$24.3 mil- 
lion; in 1985, US$80 million, a large amount of which included air- 
transportable 155mm M-198s; in 1986, US$40 million; and in 1987, 
approximately US$37.1 million. For 1981-84 United States For- 
eign Military Sales (FMS) to Somalia included US$57.15 million 
in delivered materiel, US$60 million financed with a Department 
of Defense guarantee, and US$1,811 million in commercial exports. 
During this same period, the United States trained 126 Somali mili- 
tary personnel under the International Military Education and Train- 
ing (IMET) program. The cost of the training came to more than 
US$2.31 million. Somalia also participated in the United States Cen- 
tral Command (USCENTCOM) Operation Bright Star exercises. 

After the SNM launched armed attacks in northern Somalia in 
late May 1988, the United States provided Somalia with US$1.4 
million worth of military equipment, which consisted of 1 ,200 Ml 6 
automatic rifles and 2 million rounds of M16 ammunition, 300,000 
rounds of 30-caliber ammunition, and 500,000 rounds of 50-caliber 
ammunition. Additionally, the Department of Defense donated 
US$1 million for a 220-bed hospital, which operated in Berbera 
to help victims of the conflict. 

United States military aid to Somalia diminished significantly af- 
ter it became clear that Siad Barre 's regime had committed human 


Somalia: A Country Study 

rights violations against civilian populations in northern Somalia. 
Nevertheless, according to official United States statements, the 
United States maintained a security assistance program in Soma- 
lia largely to protect its access to Somali air and port facilities; 
strengthen the Somalis' ability to maintain military equipment of 
United States origin; encourage national reconciliation through 
greater concern for human rights and civil liberties, military re- 
straint, and political accommodation with the opposition elements; 
and support private- sector revitalization. Until Siad Barre's down- 
fall, United States military aid to Somalia consisted primarily of 
technical assistance and IMET training. 

Starting in 1978, Italy furnished more military aid to Somalia 
than any other Western country. This aid included several large 
shipments of Fiat trucks, which formed the backbone of the SNA's 
logistics system throughout the 1980s. Beginning in 1979, many 
Italian companies, assisted by government-subsidized export credits, 
supplied aircraft and training for SAF flight and ground crews. 
The aircraft included six SIAI-Marchetti SF-260W single-engine 
trainer/tactical support aircraft, four Aeritalia G-222 twin-engine 
transports, and two Piaggio 166 transports. Fiat also sold light tanks 
and armored cars to the SNA. By 1980 Italian exports to Somalia 
amounted to US$124 million. The following year, Italian foreign 
minister Emilio Colombo visited Mogadishu and signed a US$40 
million aid package. Subsequently, Italy furnished an array of mili- 
tary equipment to Somalia, including armored vehicles, trucks, 
tanks, helicopters, small arms, and ammunition. In July 1983, Italy 
and Somalia signed an accord that provided for the training of 
Somali military personnel. In February 1985, the two countries 
concluded a new military assistance agreement. Apart from this 
cooperation, Italian naval ships regularly called at Mogadishu; in 
May 1986, for example, the frigates Scirocco and Grecale made a five- 
day visit to Somalia. In the late 1980s, Italy started rehabilitating 
the SNA's M-47 tanks; however, deteriorating conditions through- 
out Somalia prevented the completion of this program. On July 
11, 1990, citing delays in the democratization and national recon- 
ciliation processes, Italy announced the withdrawal from Somalia 
of its fifty-six army and air force advisers and instructors. 

The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) specialized 
in aid to the Somali police and security services. Bonn also trained 
about sixty Somali Army Special Forces personnel and maintained 
a technical assistance mission with the police air wing to service 
the Dornier Do-28s. Until 1985 West Germany had delivered ve- 
hicles and radio communications equipment valued at 68 million 
deutsche marks (DM). For the 1985-87 period, West German aid 


National Security 

amounted to DM12 million. Like other Western nations, Bonn 
curtailed its military assistance to Somalia after the armed forces 
started committing human rights violations against civilians. 

Cooperation between Somalia and China started before the break 
between Mogadishu and Moscow. It was not until 1981, however, 
that Beijing emerged as a major arms supplier to Siad Barre's re- 
gime. Thereafter, China supplied Somalia with an array of weapon- 
ry, including F-6 fighter-bombers in 1981, F-7 fighter-bombers 
in 1984, artillery, antiaircraft guns, rocket launchers, mortars, small 
arms, and ammunition. China also provided technical assistance 
to the Somali armed forces. On February 10, 1989, Somalia and 
China signed an agreement transferring Somalia's territorial fish- 
ing rights to China in exchange for armament credits. Beijing con- 
tinued to provide military assistance to Mogadishu until the 
downfall of Siad Barre's regime. 

Since the mid-1980s, there had been numerous unconfirmed 
reports of Somali-South African military cooperation. The rela- 
tionship supposedly began on December 18, 1984, when South Afri- 
can foreign minister Roelof "Pik" Botha visited Somalia and 
conducted discussions with Siad Barre. The two leaders reported- 
ly signed a secret communique granting South African Airways 
landing rights in Somalia and the South African navy access to 
the ports of Chisimayu and Berbera. It was said that Somalia also 
agreed to sell South Africa eight MiG-21 fighters. In exchange, 
South Africa reportedly promised to provide Somalia with Soviet- 
built equipment, including tanks, captured in Angola and Mozam- 
bique. South Africa supposedly arranged to ship spare parts and 
ammunition for the Hawker Hunter aircraft supplied to Somalia 
by the United Arab Emirates, and to be responsible for the salar- 
ies of ten former Rhodesian Air Force pilots who already were in 
Somalia helping to train Somali pilots and technicians and flying 
combat missions in the north. Despite Mogadishu's repeated denials 
of a military link with Pretoria, rumors of a Somali-South African 
alliance continued to surface until the downfall of Siad Barre's 

The outbreak of the SNM insurgency in mid- 1988 and the 
drying-up of traditional sources of foreign military assistance per- 
suaded Siad Barre to seek arms from Libya. On October 7, 1988, 
a Libyan Arab Airlines jet reportedly delivered nerve gas to Soma- 
lia. It was widely reported that Libya had acquired the chemical 
weapons from Iran. Mogadishu denied these charges. No evidence 
surfaced to confirm the existence of Libyan- supplied chemical 
weapons in Somalia. However, Tripoli supplied small amounts of 
conventional military weapons and ammunition to Siad Barre's 


Somalia: A Country Study 

regime. By early 1989, it was evident that the Somali government's 
strategy of using Libyan-supplied weapons to defeat the SNM and 
other insurgent groups had failed. 

State Security Services 

Under the Siad Barre regime, several police and intelligence or- 
ganizations were responsible for maintaining public order, con- 
trolling crime, and protecting the government against domestic 
threats. These included the Somali Police Force (SPF), the Peo- 
ple's Militia, the NSS, and a number of other intelligence- gathering 
operations, most of which were headed by members of the presi- 
dent's family. After Siad Barre 's downfall, these units were re- 
organized or abolished. 

Somali Police Force 

The Somali Police Force (SPF) grew out of police forces employed 
by the British and Italians to maintain peace during the colonial 
period. Both European powers used Somalis as armed constables 
in rural areas. Somalis eventually staffed the lower ranks of the 
police forces, and Europeans served as officers. The colonial forces 
produced the senior officers and commanders — including Siad 
Barre — who led the SPF and the army after independence. 

In 1884 the British formed an armed constabulary to police the 
northern coast. In 1910 the British created the Somaliland Coastal 
Police, and in 1912 they established the Somaliland Camel Con- 
stabulary to police the interior. In 1926 the colonial authorities 
formed the Somaliland Police Force. Commanded by British 
officers, the force included Somalis in its lower ranks. An armed 
rural constabulary {illalo) supported this force by bringing offenders 
to court, guarding prisoners, patrolling townships, and accompany- 
ing nomadic tribesmen over grazing areas. 

The Italians initially relied on military forces to maintain pub- 
lic order in their colony. In 1914 the authorities established a coastal 
police and a rural constabulary (gogle) to protect Italian residents. 
By 1930 this force included about 300 men. After the fascists seized 
power in Italy, colonial administrators reconstituted the Somali 
Police Corps into the Corpo Zaptie. Italian carabinieri command- 
ed and trained the new corps, which eventually numbered approx- 
imately 800. During Italy's war against Ethiopia, the Corpo Zaptie 
expanded to about 6,000 men. 

In 1941 the British defeated the Italians and formed a British 
Military Administration (BMA) over both protectorates. The BMA 
disbanded the Corpo Zaptie and created the Somalia Gendarmerie. 
By 1943 this force had grown to more than 3,000 men, led by 120 


National Security 

British officers. In 1948 the Somalia Gendarmerie became the 
Somali Police Force. 

After the creation of the Italian Trust Territory in 1950, Italian 
carabinieri officers and Somali personnel from the Somali Police 
Force formed the Police Corps of Somalia (Corpo di Polizia della 
Somalia). In 1958 the authorities made the corps an entirely Somali 
force and changed its name to the Police Force of Somalia (Forza 
di Polizia della Somalia). 

In 1960 the British Somaliland Scouts joined with the Police 
Corps of Somalia to form a new Somali Police Force, which con- 
sisted of about 3,700 men. The authorities also organized approx- 
imately 1 ,000 of the force as the Darawishta Poliska, a mobile group 
used to keep peace between warring clans in the interior. Since 
then, the government has considered the SPF a part of the armed 
forces. It was not a branch of the SNA, however, and did not oper- 
ate under the army's command structure. Until abolished in 1976, 
the Ministry of Interior oversaw the force's national commandant 
and his central command. After that date, the SPF came under 
the control of the presidential adviser on security affairs. 

Each of the country's administrative regions had a police com- 
mandant; other commissioned officers maintained law and order 
in the districts. After 1972 the police outside Mogadishu comprised 
northern and southern group commands, divisional commands (cor- 
responding to the districts), station commands, and police posts. 
Regional governors and district commissioners commanded regional 
and district police elements. 

Under the parliamentary regime, police received training and 
materiel aid from West Germany, Italy, and the United States. 
Although the government used the police to counterbalance the 
Soviet-supported army, no police commander opposed the 1969 
army coup. During the 1970s, German Democratic Republic (East 
German) security advisers assisted the SPF. After relations with 
the West improved in the late 1970s, West German and Italian 
advisers again started training police units. 

By the late 1970s, the SPF was carrying out an array of mis- 
sions, including patrol work, traffic management, criminal inves- 
tigation, intelligence gathering, and counterinsurgency. The elite 
mobile police groups consisted of the Darawishta and the Birmad- 
ka Poliska (Riot Unit). The Darawishta, a mobile unit that oper- 
ated in remote areas and along the frontier, participated in the 
Ogaden War. The Birmadka acted as a crack unit for emergency 
action and provided honor guards for ceremonial functions. 

In 1961 the SPF established an air wing, equipped with Cessna 
light aircraft and one Douglas DC-3. The unit operated from 


Somalia: A Country Study 

improvised landing fields near remote police posts. The wing 
provided assistance to field police units and to the Darawishta 
through the airlift of supplies and personnel and reconnaissance. 
During the final days of Siad Barre's regime, the air wing operated 
two Cessna light aircraft and two DO-28 Skyservants. 

Technical and specialized police units included the Tributary 
Division, the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), the Traffic 
Division, a communications unit, and a training unit. The CID, 
which operated throughout the country, handled investigations, fin- 
gerprinting, criminal records, immigration matters, and passports. 

In 1961 the SPF established a women's unit. Personnel assigned 
to this small unit investigated, inspected, and interrogated female 
offenders and victims. Policewomen also handled cases that involved 
female juvenile delinquents, ill or abandoned girls, prostitutes, and 
child beggars. 

Service units of the Somali police included the Gadidka Poliska 
(Transport Department) and the Health Service. The Police Cus- 
todial Corps served as prison guards. In 1971 the SPF created a 
fifty-man national Fire Brigade. Initially, the Fire Brigade oper- 
ated in Mogadishu. Later, however, it expanded its activities into 
other towns, including Chisimayu, Hargeysa, Berbera, Merca, Gio- 
har, and Beledweyne. 

Beginning in the early 1970s, police recruits had to be seven- 
teen to twenty-five years of age, of high moral caliber, and physi- 
cally fit. Upon completion of six months of training at the National 
Police Academy in Mogadishu, those who passed an examination 
would serve two years on the force. After the recruits completed 
this service, the police could request renewal of their contracts. 
Officer cadets underwent a nine-month training course that em- 
phasized supervision of police field performance. Darawishta mem- 
bers attended a six-month tactical training course; Birmadka 
personnel received training in public order and riot control. After 
Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in January 1991, both the Darawishta 
and Birmadka forces ceased to operate, for all practical purposes. 

People's Militia 

In August 1972, the government established the People's Militia, 
known as the Victory Pioneers (Guulwadayaal). Although a wing 
of the army, the militia worked under the supervision of the Polit- 
ical Bureau of the presidency. After the SRSP's formation in 1976, 
the militia became part of the party apparatus. Largely because 
of the need for military reserves, militia membership increased from 
2,500 in 1977 to about 10,000 in 1979, and to approximately 20,000 


National Security 

by 1990. After the collapse of Siad Barre's regime, the People's 
Militia, like other military elements, disintegrated. 

The militia staffed the government and party orientation centers 
that were located in every settlement in Somalia. The militia aid- 
ed in self-help programs, encouraged "revolutionary progress," 
promoted and defended Somali culture, and fought laziness, mis- 
use of public property, and "reactionary" ideas and actions. 
Moreover, the militia acted as a law enforcement agency that per- 
formed duties such as checking contacts between Somalis and 
foreigners. The militia also had powers of arrest independent of 
the police. In rural areas, militiamen formed "vigilance corps" 
that guarded grazing areas and towns. After Siad Barre fled 
Mogadishu in January 1991, militia members tended to join one 
of the insurgent groups or clan militias. 

National Security Service 

Shortly after Siad Barre seized power, the Soviet Committee of 
State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti — KGB) 
helped Somalia form the National Security Service (NSS). This 
organization, which operated outside normal bureaucratic chan- 
nels, developed into an instrument of domestic surveillance, with 
powers of arrest and investigation. The NSS monitored the profes- 
sional and private activities of civil servants and military person- 
nel and played a role in the promotion and demotion of government 
officials. As the number of insurgent movements proliferated in 
the late 1980s, the NSS increased its activities against dissidents, 
rebel sympathizers, and other government opponents (see Human 
Rights, this ch.). Until the downfall of Siad Barre's regime, the 
NSS remained an elite organization staffed by men from the SNA 
and the police force who had been chosen for their loyalty to the 

Criminal Justice 

Over the centuries, the Somalis developed a system of handling 
disputes or acts of violence, including homicide, as wrongs involving 
not only the parties immediately concerned but also the clans to 
which they belonged. The offending party and his group would 
pay diya to the injured party and his clan. The British and Italians 
enforced criminal codes based on their own judicial systems in their 
respective colonies, but did not seriously disrupt the dfzjw-paying 

After independence the Somali government developed its own 
laws and procedures, which were largely based on British and Italian 


Somalia: A Country Study 

legal codes. Somali officials made no attempt to develop a uniquely 
Somali criminal justice system, although ^a-paying arrangements 

The military junta that seized power in 1969 changed little of 
the criminal justice system it inherited. However, the government 
launched a campaign against diya and the concept of collective 
responsibility for crimes. This concept is the most distinctly Somali 
of any in the criminal justice system. The regime instead concen- 
trated on extending the influence of laws introduced by the British 
and Italians. This increased the government's control over an area 
of national life previously regulated largely by custom. 

Penal System 

The Somali Penal Code, promulgated in early 1962, became ef- 
fective on April 3, 1964. It was Somalia's first codification of laws 
designed to protect the individual and to ensure the equitable ad- 
ministration of justice. The basis of the code was the constitution- 
al premise that the law has supremacy over the state and its citizens. 
The code placed responsibility for determining offenses and punish- 
ments on the written law and the judicial system and excluded many 
penal sanctions formerly observed in unwritten customary law. The 
authorities who drafted the code, however, did not disregard the 
people's past reliance on traditional rules and sanctions. The code 
contained some of the authority expressed by customary law and 
by Islamic sharia, or religious law. 

The penal laws applied to all nationals, foreigners, and stateless 
persons living in Somalia. Courts ruled out ignorance of the law 
as a justification for breaking the law or an excuse for committing 
an offense, but considered extenuations and mitigating factors in 
individual cases. The penal laws prohibited collective punishment, 
which was contrary to the traditional sanctions of diya-pay'mg 
groups. The penal laws stipulated that if the offense constituted 
a violation of the code, the perpetrator had committed an unlaw- 
ful act against the state and was subject to its sanctions. Judicial 
action under the code, however, did not rule out the possibility 
of additional redress in the form of diya through civil action in the 
courts. Siad Barre's regime attacked this tolerance of diya, and for- 
bade its practice entirely in 1974. 

Under the Somali penal code, to be criminally liable a person 
must have committed an act or have been guilty of an omission 
that caused harm or danger to the person or property of another 
or to the state. Further, the offense must have been committed will- 
fully or as the result of negligence, imprudence, or illegal behavior. 
Under Somali penal law, the courts assumed the accused to be 


National Security 

innocent until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In crimi- 
nal prosecution, the burden of proof rested with the state. 

Penal laws classed offenses as either crimes or contraventions, 
the latter being legal violations without criminal intent. Death by 
shooting was the only sentence for serious offenses such as crimes 
against the state and murder. The penal law usually prescribed 
maximum and minimum punishments but left the actual sentence 
to the judge's discretion. 

The penal laws comprised three categories. The first dealt with 
general principles of jurisprudence; the second defined criminal 
offenses and prescribed specified punishments; the third contained 
sixty-one articles that regulated contraventions of public order, safety, 
morality, and health. Penal laws took into consideration the role 
of punishment in restoring the offender to a useful place in society. 

The Criminal Procedure Code governed matters associated with 
arrest and trial. The code, which conformed to British common 
law, prescribed the kinds and jurisdictions of criminal courts, iden- 
tified the functions and responsibilities of judicial officials, oudined 
the rules of evidence, and regulated the conduct of trials. Normal- 
ly, a person could be arrested only if caught in the act of commit- 
ting an offense or upon issuance of a warrant by the proper judicial 
authority. The code recognized the writ of habeas corpus. Those 
arrested had the right to appear before a judge within twenty-four 

As government opposition proliferated in the late 1970s and early 
1980s, the Siad Barre regime increasingly subverted or ignored 
Somalia's legal system. By the late 1980s, Somalia had become a 
police state, with citizens often falling afoul of the authorities for 
solely political reasons. Pressure by international human rights or- 
ganizations such as Amnesty International and Africa Watch failed 
to slow Somalia's descent into lawlessness. After Siad Barre fell 
from power in January 1991, the new authorities promised to re- 
store equity to the country's legal system. Given the many politi- 
cal, economic, and social problems confronting post-Siad Barre 
Somalia, however, it appeared unlikely that this goal would be 
achieved soon. 

Prison System 

The few prisons that existed before 1960 had been established 
during the British and Italian colonial administrations. By indepen- 
dence these facilities were in poor condition and were inadequate- 
ly staffed. 

After independence the Somali government included in the con- 
stitution an article asserting that criminal punishment must not 


Somalia: A Country Study 

be an obstacle to convicts' moral reeducation. This article also es- 
tablished a prison organization and emphasized prisoner rehabili- 

The Somali Penal Code of 1962 effectively stipulated the reor- 
ganization of the prison system. The code required that prisoners 
of all ages work during prison confinement. In return for labor 
on prison farms, construction projects, and roadbuilding, prisoners 
received a modest salary, which they could spend in prison can- 
teens or retain until their release. The code also outlawed the im- 
prisonment of juveniles with adults. 

By 1969 Somalia's prison system included forty-nine facilities, 
the best-equipped of which was the Central Prison of Mogadishu. 
During the 1970s, East Germany helped Somalia build four modern 
prisons. As opposition to Siad Barre's regime intensified, the coun- 
try's prisons became so crowded that the government used schools, 
military and police headquarters, and part of the presidential palace 
as makeshift jails. Despite criticism by several international hu- 
manitarian agencies, the Somali government failed to improve the 
prison system. 

Human Rights 

The constitution of 1961, in force until the October 1969 revo- 
lution, protected the civil rights outlined in the United Nations 
Declaration of Human Rights. These included the presumption 
of innocence before the courts, the right of habeas corpus, the free- 
doms of political association, public expression, and personal liberty 
and movement, and the right to form labor unions and to strike. 
The state owned all land (outright ownership of land conflicts with 
Somali traditions), but developed property and improved land could 
be expropriated only on the basis of equitable compensation. With 
few exceptions, the Somali government respected these rights. 

In October 1970, the Siad Barre government abolished the right 
of habeas corpus; however, the courts continued to recognize the 
presumption of innocence and to provide free legal assistance to 
indigent defendants in serious cases. The regime also extended equal 
rights to women in several areas, including inheritance. In the late 
1970s, however, the government began restricting civil rights to 
counter the spread of dissident elements. This policy was criticized 
by the United States and several other Western nations. 

In 1979, anxious to obtain United States military and economic 
assistance, Siad Barre promulgated a new liberal constitution. Ap- 
proved by a national referendum held on August 29, 1979, this 
constitution stipulated the restoration of many of the civil rights 
that had been extinguished by the military government. The new 


National Security 

constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, religion, and publica- 
tion and the right to participate in an assembly, demonstration, 
or organization. The constitution also supported the inviolability 
of the home and the privacy of correspondence. However, these 
safeguards were subject to important qualifications — in the cases 
of freedom of expression and association by the condition that ex- 
ercise of these rights " shall not contravene the constitution, the 
laws of the land, general morality, and public order." Further- 
more, under the constitution the government was permitted to con- 
trol the press, subject foreign publications to censorship, and 
circumscribe freedom of assembly. 

The constitution stipulated that anyone deprived of personal 
liberty should forthwith be informed of the offense of which he was 
accused, and anyone detained on security grounds must be brought 
before a competent judicial authority without delay. Despite these 
provisions, the Amnesty International Report, 1980 estimated that the 
government had jailed at least 100 people on political grounds 
without charge or trial, among them former prime minister Ma- 
hammad Ibrahim Igaal. After the 1978 coup attempt, the 
Mogadishu National Security Court tried seventy-four men and 
subsequently ordered the execution of seventeen of them. The defen- 
dants had access to legal representation, and close relatives were 
permitted to attend the trials. However, in early 1980 the govern- 
ment secretly executed as many as several dozen military person- 
nel for supporting the Somali Salvation Front (SSF) guerrilla 

Over the next few years, the proliferation of insurgent move- 
ments prompted Mogadishu to become increasingly oppressive. 
In 1982, for example, the government declared a state of emer- 
gency in northern Somalia and took steps to suppress local popu- 
lations. Additionally, laws were adopted that placed civilians under 
the jurisdiction of military tribunals and military police. Several 
institutions constituted this new security apparatus, including the 
Mobile Military Court (MMC), the Regional Security Council 
(RSC), the HANGASH (Somali acronym for military police), the 
NSS, and the Victory Pioneers. 

Established in 1982, the MMC was composed entirely of mili- 
tary officers. Two years later, after the SNM had launched an offen- 
sive in the mountainous region of Sheekh and nearby Burao, the 
MMC assumed jurisdiction over civilians. Operating from head- 
quarters in Hargeysa, the MMC created a network of offices 
throughout northern Somalia. Initially, the MMC tried small num- 
bers of suspected opponents of the regime such as businessmen and 
educated people. Eventually, however, the MMC tried every variety 


Somalia: A Country Study 

of politically active person or group. The court prosecutor, Colonel 
Yuusuf Muse, quickly earned a reputation for cruelty and his in- 
sistence on the death penalty. In 1984-85 and from late 1987 until 
mid- 1988, Muse authorized mass executions of hundreds, if not 
thousands, of northerners. 

The RSC, which was superior to all other branches of the secu- 
rity system, consisted of the regional governor, the regional mili- 
tary commander, a military officer, the regional police commander, 
and the following national officials: the NSS director, the head of 
the SRSP, the commander of the Victory Pioneers, and the direc- 
tor of the Police Custodial Corps. Although it could operate any- 
where in the country, the RSC confined its activities to northern 
Somalia. The RSC usually met weekly, but it convened more fre- 
quentiy during emergencies. Any quorum of six could impose long 
prison sentences or the death penalty. From its inception, the RSC 
ordered mass arrests of SNM sympathizers and other suspected 
government opponents and confiscated their property. The RSC 
often relied on the NSS to conduct interrogations and prepare ar- 
rest warrants. 

Mogadishu created the HANGASH in the aftermath of the 1978 
coup attempt. Its purpose was to maintain surveillance over the 
military and the NSS. As the government's crackdown on politi- 
cal activity became more severe, however, the HANGASH acquired 
power over civilians. Eventually, the HANGASH, which operat- 
ed without legal authority, became more feared than the NSS. 

The NSS, Somalia's principal intelligence agency, possessed the 
power to detain people indefinitely if they were suspected of hav- 
ing committed national security offenses. Article 5 of Law No. 8 
of January 26, 1970, abolished the right to habeas corpus in na- 
tional security cases and permitted access to lawyers only after the 
NSS had completed its investigations and had prepared charges. 
Over the years, the NSS used the national security rationale to justi- 
fy the arrest, execution, or imprisonment of hundreds, if not thou- 
sands, of real and imagined government opponents. 

The Victory Pioneers were a uniformed militia that provided 
security at the neighborhood level. Pioneer units, which existed 
in every town and village, ensured loyalty to Siad Barre's regime 
by encouraging people to spy on each other in the work place, 
schools, mosques, and private homes. 

After the SNM launched a major offensive in northern Somalia 
in late May 1988, deterioration of the government's human rights 
record accelerated. The SNA used artillery shelling and aerial bom- 
bardment in heavily populated urban centers to retake the towns 
of Hargeysa and Burao. As a result, thousands of refugees gathered 


Center for internally displaced persons, Mogadishu, 1991 
Refugee women in camp near Luuq, western Somalia, 1991 

Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz 


Somalia: A Country Study 

on the outskirts of these cities. After breaking into smaller groups 
of 300 to 500, the refugees started a ten- to forty-day trek to Ethio- 
pia; others fled to Djibouti and Kenya. Along the way, SNA units 
robbed many civilians and summarily executed anyone suspected 
of being an SNM member or sympathizer. SAF jet aircraft strafed 
many refugee columns, forcing refugees to walk at night to avoid 
further attacks. Africa Watch reported that government forces had 
killed as many as 50,000 unarmed civilians between June 1988 and 
January 1990; most victims belonged to the northern Isaaq clan. 

By 1990 security conditions had become as bad in central and 
southern Somalia as they had been in the north. As a result, the 
government enacted harsh new measures against opposition ele- 
ments. In Mogadishu, for example, SNA personnel and members 
of the various security agencies regularly raped, robbed, and killed 
noncombatant citizens. The emergence of bandit groups in the cap- 
ital only exacerbated security problems in Mogadishu. On July 6, 
1990, some of Siad Barre's bodyguards, the Red Berets (Duub Cas), 
started shooting at people who had been shouting antigovernment 
slogans at a soccer match. Other Red Berets, stationed outside the 
soccer stadium, shot into the crowd as it tried to escape the chaos 
inside (see Harrying of the Hawiye, ch. 1). Eventually, at least 
65 civilians lost their lives and more than 300 sustained serious 
wounds. The authorities refused to allow families to recover the 
bodies of their relatives. 

In the central area, which consists of Mudug, Hiiraan, and Gal- 
guduud regions, the government unleashed a reign of terror against 
those suspected of supporting or belonging to the United Somali 
Congress (USC), another insurgent group. According to Africa 
Watch, the SNA killed hundreds of civilians in retaliation for reb- 
el attacks. Government troops also ambushed numerous cars, killing 
and injuring many of the passengers. After robbing vehicles, sol- 
diers usually hanged some victims on trees and then forced local 
inhabitants to view the bodies of what the soldiers claimed were 
armed bandits. Similar violence occurred at several other central 
and southern towns and villages, including Beledweyne, Adaddo, 
Gaalcaio, Doolow, Hara Cadera, Hobyo, Las Adale, and Wisil. 

Apart from atrocities committed by troops in the field, prison 
authorities mistreated political detainees and other prisoners, despite 
the fact that on January 24, 1990, the government had ratified the 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According 
to Africa Watch, detainees and prisoners were held in tiny, over- 
crowded cells and denied medical treatment and physical exercise. 
Many were tortured. During Siad Barre's final months in power, 
the Central Prison of Mogadishu, which was intended to hold about 


National Security 

600 people, often contained 1 ,600 or more prisoners. There was also 
a lack of food, water, medicine, bedding, and air. Guards extorted 
food and money, which had been supplied by prisoners' families. 

In response to growing domestic and international pressure, the 
government introduced a provisional constitution, effective for one 
year from October 12, 1990. Supposedly, the constitution would 
have repealed a series of repressive security laws; permitted free, 
multiparty elections; guaranteed individual civil rights; and trans- 
ferred considerable power from the president to the prime minister, 
cabinet, and parliament. However, the heavy fighting that engulfed 
Mogadishu and other areas of Somalia at the end of 1990 prevent- 
ed the new constitution from having any impact. After Siad Barre 
fled Mogadishu in early 1991, Somalia's human rights record fur- 
ther deteriorated, largely because of fighting between and among 
various insurgent groups and clan militias, and the attacks by bandit 
groups on the civilian population. 

Given the West's limited access to Somalia and the secrecy that 
surrounded security-related activities, there is no definitive study 
of the country's armed forces. Those interested in Somali national 
security affairs therefore must rely on a variety of periodical sources, 
including Africa Research Bulletin, Keesing's Contemporary Archives, Third 
World Reports, Africa Confidential, and African Defense Journal. Other 
useful publications include New African, Africa Events, Africa News, 
Focus on Africa, and Horn of Africa. Two International Institute for 
Strategic Studies annuals, The Military Balance and Strategic Survey, 
also are essential for anyone wishing to understand the evolution 
of Somalia's security forces. The same is true of three annuals: 
Africa Contemporary Record, Africa South of the Sahara, and World Ar- 
maments and Disarmament. The last is published by the Stockholm 
International Peace Research Institute. 

Useful historical works include Malcolm McNeill's In Pursuit of 
the 'Mad Mullah ': Service and Sport in the Somali Protectorate, Douglas 
J. Jardine's The Mad Mullah of Somaliland, and H.F.P. Battesby's 
Richard Corf ield of Somaliland. Bruce D. Porter's The USSR in Third 
World Conflicts provides an excellent analysis of the 1977-78 Ogaden 
War between Somalia and Ethiopia. Somalia: Nation in Search of a 
State, by David D. Laitin and Said S. Samatar, contains some use- 
ful information on the postindependence evolution of the Somali 
armed forces. Material on human rights practices in Somalia can 
be found in the annual Amnesty International Report and in a variety 
of Africa Watch reports, the most important of which is Somalia: A 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Government at War with Its Own People. (For further information and 
complete citations, see Bibliography.) 




1 Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors 

2 Selected Commodities, Selected Years, 1969-80 

3 External Debt, 1984, 1986, and 1988 

4 Principal Crops, 1987, 1988, and 1989 

5 Principal Livestock, 1987, 1988, and 1989 

6 Selected Commodities, 1987, 1988, and 1989 

7 Gross Domestic Product by Sector, 1988, 1989, and 1990 

8 Exports by Commodity, Selected Years, 1980-88 

9 Imports by Commodity, Selected Years, 1980-86 
10 Balance of Payments, 1987, 1988, and 1989 



Table 1. Metric Conversion Coefficients and Factors 

When you know Multiply by To find 

Millimeters 0.04 inches 

Centimeters 0.39 inches 

Meters 3.3 feet 

Kilometers 0.62 miles 

Hectares (10,000 m 2 ) 2.47 acres 

Square kilometers 0.39 square miles 

Cubic meters 35.3 cubic feet 

Liters 0.26 gallons 

Kilograms 2.2 pounds 

Metric tons 0.98 long tons 

1.1 short tons 

2,204 pounds 

Degrees Celsius 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit 

(Centigrade) and add 32 

Table 2. Selected Commodities, Selected Years, 










Grains (in thousands of tons 





Livestock (in thousands 









Milk (bottled, in thousands of liters) . . . 


1,940 * 



Sugar (in thousands of tons) 


37 * 



Textiles (in thousands of meters) 





* Estimated. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Table 3. External Debt, 1984, 1986, and 1988 
(in millions of United States dollars) 





Long-term debt 

Central Bank (including IMF credit) * 










Private sector (including nonguaranteed) 




Short-term debt 








n.a. — not available. 

* IMF — International Monetary Fund. 

Source: Based on information from World Bank, World Tables, 1989, Baltimore, 1990, 499. 

Table 4. Principal Crops, 1987, 1988, and 1989 
(in thousands of tons) 

Crop 1987 1988 1989 

Bananas 108 115 116* 

Corn 296 353 302 

Sorghum 244 235 291 

Sugarcane 390 450 450 

* Estimate from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Source: Based on information from "Somalia — Economy ," Africa South of the Sahara, 1992, 
London, 1991, 899. 

Table 5. Principal Livestock, 1987, 1988, and 1989 
(in thousands of head) 

Kind of Livestock 1987 1988 * 1989 * 

Camels 6,601 6,680 6,700 

Cattle 4,770 5,000 5,200 

Goats 19,705 20,000 20,300 

Sheep 13,195 13,500 13,800 

* Estimate from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Source: Based on information from "Somalia — Economy," Africa South of the Sahara, 1992, 
London, 1991, 899. 



Table 6. Selected Commodities, 1987, 1988, and 1989 





Bananas (in thousands of tons) . . . 



116 1 

Grains (in thousands of tons of corn 

and sorghum) 




Livestock (in thousands of head of 



6,700 1 

1.0 2 



Milk (in tons of cows', goats', 

and sheep's milk) 

1,448,000 1 

1,568,000 1 

1,660,000 1 

Sugar (in thousands of tons) 




Textiles (in thousands of meters) . . 




n.a. — not available. 

1 Estimate from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

2 Figure for 1986. 

Source: Based on information from "Somalia — Economy, " Africa South of the Sahara, 1992, 
London, 1991, 899-900. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Table 7. Gross Domestic Product by Sector, 1988, 1989, and 1990 
(in millions of Somali shillings at constant 1985 prices) 1 

1988 1989 1990 

Sector Actual Estimated Planned 

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing 

Livestock 33,474 33,100 33,928 

Crops 21,949 23,156 24,082 

Forestry 5,556 5,723 5,894 

Fishing * 634 685 753 

Total agriculture, forestry, and 

fishing 61,613 62,664 64,657 

Mining 291 291 291 

Manufacturing 4,580 4,823 5,160 

Construction 2,963 3,082 3,266 

Electricity and water 57 60 63 

Transportation and 

communications 5,873 6,225 6,599 


Government 1,404 1,243 1,346 

Trade and hotels 8,599 9,081 9,625 

Finance and insurance 546 568 613 

Real estate 3,344 3,377 3,513 

Other 2,863 2,949 3,067 

Total services 16,756 17,218 18,164 

Imputed bank changes - 748 - 785 - 785 

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT 2 91,385 93,578 97,415 

1 For value of the Somali shilling — see Glossary. 

2 At factor cost. 

Source: Based on information from Somalia, Ministry of National Planning and Jubba 
Valley Development, Annual Development Plan, 1990, Mogadishu, 1990, 4. 



Table 8. Exports by Commodity, Selected Years, 1980-88 
(in millions of Somali shillings) 1 








fift ft 

9^ 8 
A J . o 


1 907 9 

9 4-fift ft 

£. , TOO . O 

3 QQ9 3 

X loll CLllKJL lliMl 

nrnn 1 1 ct c 







Hides and skins . . . 


















2 8.6 


















Total livestock . 







Meat and meat 




















TOTAL (f.o.b.) 2 . . 







n.a. — not available. 

1 For value of the Somali shilling — see Glossary. 

2 f.o.b. — free on board. 

Source: Based on information from "Somalia — Economy," Africa South of the Sahara, 1992, 
London, 1991, 902; and Somalia, Ministry of National Planning and Jubba Val- 
ley Development, Somalia in Figures, Mogadishu, 1989, 9. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Table 9. Imports by Commodity, Selected Years, 1980-86 
(in millions of Somali shillings) 1 







Consumer goods 

DCVCIdeCa ctllU LUUdL-UU • • • • 






Clothing and footwear .... 

4ft 7 

TTO. / 

^7 9 

74. Q 

Jl .o 

1ftQ ft 







Medical and pharmaceutical 

rMTirii i ^tc 






x ClaUIldi lUUClIlCa dUU 



1 D 

3 3 

90 ft 



fifi 4 

41 9 


4^7 9 

1ftQ 1 

1Q9 7 

1 14 7 
1 It. 1 


/ yo.o 

ftQQ Q 

Total consumer goods . . 











Intermediate goods 

Cement and building 

















ft 3 


ftfi Q 

1QQ ft 

91 ^ fi 

74Q ft 
/ tj . \j 

IVxClcU allU IXllilCXdl 







97 7 

10 1 

33 S 
jj . j 

77 1 

30^ ft 

Rubber products 






Wood, lumber, and cork 













Total intermediate 






Capital goods 






Nonelectrical machinery . . 






Transportation equipment . 






Total capital goods .... 












TOTAL (c.i.f.) 2 






n.a. — not available. 

1 For value of the Somali shilling — see Glossary. 

2 c.i.f. — cost, insurance, and freight. 

Source: Based on information from Somalia, Ministry of National Planning and Jubba 
Valley Development, Somalia in Figures, Mogadishu, 1989, 9. 



Table 10. Balance of Payments, 1987, 1988, and 1989 
(in millions of United States dollars) 

1 Q&7 

1 QftR 

1 QQQ 


JO . t: 

fi7 7 

Merchandise imports (fob) 

- 358 5 

- 216.0 

- 346.3 

- 264.5 

- 157.6 

- 278.6 


- 104.0 

- 122.0 







Official unrequited transfers (net) 






- 156.7 


- 102.8 







- 180.2 

- 189.4 

* f.o.b. — free on board 

Source: Based on information from "Somalia — Economy," Africa South of the Sahara, 1992, 
London, 1991, 901. 




Chapter 1 

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March 1980, 38-42. 

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Nineteenth Century, " Journal of African History [Cambridge], 3, 
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Caroselli, Francesco S. Ferro e fuoco in Somalia. Rome: Sindicato 
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Cassanelli, Lee Vincent. "The Benaadir Past: Essays in Southern 
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The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a 

Pastoral People, 1600-1900. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Univer- 
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Castagno, Margaret. Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Metuchen, New 
Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1975. 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Cerulli, Enrico. Somalia: Scritti vari editi ed inediti. (3 vols.) Rome: 
Istituto Poligrafico della Stato, 1957-64. 

Chittick, Neville. "An Archaeological Reconnaissance of the 
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tion. London: Cass, 1969. 

Doornbos, Martin R. "The Shehu and the Mullah: The Jehods 
of Usuman Dan Fodio and Muhammad Abd-Allah Hassan in 
Comparative Perspective," Acta Africana [Geneva], 14, No. 2, 
1975, 7-31. 

Drysdale, John G. The Somali Dispute. New York: Praeger, 1964. 
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New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1976. 
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The Evaded Duty. London: Collings, 1985. 

Gersony, Robert. "Why Somalis Flee: A Synthesis of Accounts 
of Conflict Experience in Northern Somalia by Somali Refugees, 
Displaced Persons, and Others." Washington: Department of 
State, 1989. 

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Henze, Paul B. The Horn of Africa: From War to Peace. New York: 
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of Chicago Press, 1966. 

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African History [Cambridge], 5, No. 3, 1964, 415-33. 



. ' 'The Poor Man of God: Muhammed Abdullah Hassan. ' ' 

Pages 63-108 in Norman R. Bennett (ed.), Leadership in Eastern 
Africa: Six Political Biographies. Boston: Boston University Press, 

Hoskyns, Catherine (ed.). The Ethiopia-Somalia- Kenya Dispute, 
1960-67. (Case Studies in African Diplomacy, No. 2.) Dar es 
Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1969. 

Jardine, Douglas J. The Mad Mullah of Somaliland. London: Jenkins, 
1923. Reprint. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969. 

Karp, Mark. The Economics of Trusteeship in Somalia. (African Studies 
Program Series.) Boston: Boston University Press, 1960. 

Kebede, Yonas. "The Legal Aspect of the Ethiopian-Somali Dis- 
pute," Horn of Africa, 1, No. 1, January-March 1978, 26-31. 

Laitin, David D. Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience. 
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. 

"Somalia's Military Government and Scientific Social- 
ism." Pages 174-206 in Carl G. Rosberg and Thomas M. Cal- 
laghy (eds.), Socialism in Sub-Saharan Africa: A New Assessment. 
Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of Califor- 
nia Press, 1979. 

. "The War in the Ogaden: Implications for Siyaad's Role 

in Somali History, "Journal of Modern African Studies [Cambridge], 

17, No. 1, March 1979, 95-115. 
Laitin, David D., and Said S. Samatar. Somalia: Nation in Search 

of a State. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1987. 
Laurence, Margaret. The Prophet's Camel Bell. New York: Macmil- 

lan, 1963. 

Legum, Colin (ed.). Africa Contemporary Record: Annual Survey and 
Documents (annuals 1978-1979 through 1990-1991). New York: 
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Legum, Colin, and Bill Lee. The Horn of Africa in Continuing Crisis. 
New York: Africana, 1979. 

Lewis, Herbert S. "The Origins of the Galla and Somali," Jour- 
nal of African History [Cambridge], 7, No. 1, 1966, 27-46. 

Lewis, I.M. "Conformity and Contrast in Somali Islam." Pages 
240-52 in I.M. Lewis (ed.), Islam in Tropical Africa. (2d ed.) 
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"Dualism in Somalian Notions of Power," Journal of the 

Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland [London] , 
93, Pt. 1, January-June 1963, 109-16. 

. "From Nomadism to Cultivation: The Expansion of Po- 
litical Solidarity in Southern Somalia." Pages 59-78 in Mary 
Douglas and Phyllis M. Kaberry (eds.), Man in Africa. London: 
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Somalia: A Country Study 

"Historical Aspects of Genealogies in Northern Somali 

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[London], 28, No. 3, July 1958, 244-61. 

"Modern Political Movements in Somaliland, 2," Africa 

[London], 28, No. 4, October 1958, 344-63. 

"The Nation, State, and Politics in Somalia." Pages 

285-306 in David R. Smock and Kwamena Bensi-Entchill (eds.), 
The Search for National Integration in Africa. New York: Free Press, 

"Nationalism and Particularism in Somalia." Pages 

339-62 in P.H. Gulliver (ed.), Tradition and Transition in East Afri- 
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A Pastoral Democracy. London: Oxford University Press, 


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"The Problem of the Northern Frontier District of 

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"Shaikhs and Warriors in Somaliland." Pages 204-23 in 

M. Fortes and G. Dieterlen (eds.), African Systems of Thought. Lon- 
don: Oxford University Press, 1965. 

"The Somali Conquest of the Horn of Africa, " Journal 

of African History [Cambridge], 1, No. 2, 1960, 213-29. 

Lytton, Lord. The Stolen Desert. London: Macdonald, 1966. 

Marcus, Harold G. The Modern History of Ethiopia and the Horn of 
Africa: A Select and Annotated Bibliography. Stanford: Hoover In- 
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ford: Oxford University Press, 1935. 

Pankhurst, E. Sylvia. Ex-Italian Somaliland. New York: Philosophical 
Library, 1951. 



Payton, Gary D. "The Somali Coup of 1969: The Case for Soviet 
Complicity ," Journal of Modern African Studies [Cambridge], 18, 
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Pothholm, Christian P. Four African Political Systems. Englewood 
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Potter, Pitman B. The Wal Arbitration. (Monograph Series, Divi- 
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Reisman, W. Michael. "The Case of Western Somaliland: An In- 
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Rennell, Francis James. British Military Administration of Occupied 
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Rivlin, Benjamin. The United Nations and Italian Colonies. (United 
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Rubenson, Sven. "The Genesis of the Ethio-Somali Conflict." 
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Samatar, Said S. "How to Run an SNM Gauntlet," Horn of Afri- 
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Oral Poetry and Somali Nationalism: The Case of Sayyid Ma- 

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. Somalia: A Nation in Turmoil. London: Minority Rights 

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"The Somali Dilemma: Nation in Search of a State." 

Pages 155-94 in Anthony I. Asiwaju (ed.), Partitioned Africans: 
Ethnic Relations Across Africa 's International Boundaries, 1884-1984. 
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Somalia: A Country Study 

3: From c. 1050 to c. 1600. Cambridge: Cambridge University 
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Chapter 2 

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Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. 

Laitin, David D., and Said S. Samatar. Somalia: Nation in Search 
of a State. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1987. 

Laurence, Margaret. The Prophet's Camel Bell. New York: Macmil- 
lan, 1963. 

Lewis, I.M. "Conformity and Contrast in Somali Islam." Pages 
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Proceedings of the First United States Conference on Ethiopian Studies, 
1973. East Lansing: African Studies Center, Michigan State 
University, 1975. 

Mathews, Lloyd. "Somalia." Pages 522-24 in John Keegan (ed.), 
World Armies. (2d ed.) Detroit: Gale Research, 1983. 

Mayall, John. "The Battle for the Horn: Somali Irredentism and 
International Diplomacy," World Today [London], 34, No. 9, 
September 1978, 336-43. 

The Military Bale nee, 1991-1992. London: International Institute 
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Napper, Larry C. "The Ogaden War: Some Implications for Crisis 
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ing U.S. -Soviet Rivalry: Problems of Crisis Prevention. Boulder, Colora- 
do: Westview Press, 1983. 

Omaar, Rakiya. "Somalia: At War with Itself," Current History, 
91, No. 565, May 1992, 230-34. 

Osman, Mohamoud. "Somalia: From Irredentism to Insurgen- 
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Ottaway, Marina. Soviet and American Influence in the Horn of Africa. 
New York: Praeger, 1982. 

Patman, Robert G. The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa: The Diplomacy 



of Intervention and Disengagement. Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- 
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Payton, Gary D. "The Somali Coup of 1969: The Case for Soviet 
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"Soviet Military Presence Abroad: The Lessons of Soma- 
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Porter, Bruce D. "The Ogaden War." Pages 182-215 in Bruce 
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Prunier, Gerard. "A Candid View of the Somali National Move- 
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Reisman, W. Michael. "The Case of Western Somaliland: An In- 
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Remnek, Richard B. "Soviet Policy in the Horn of Africa: The 
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"The Soviet-Somali 'Arms for Access' Relationship," 

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Rennell, Francis James. British Military Administration of Occupied Ter- 
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Searle, Chris. "Agony and Struggle in Northern Somalia," Race 
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Somalia: A Country Study 

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(Various issues of the following publications were also used in 
the preparation of this chapter: Africa Report; Africa Confidential [Lon- 
don]; African Defense Journal [Paris]; Africa News; Africa Research Bulletin 
[Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom]; Horn of Africa, Keesing's Con- 
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and Times [London].) 



clan — A large group of people believed to be descendants through 
males of a common ancestor whose name is also the name of 
the clan. Several clans constitute a clan-family (q.v.), and each 
clan is divided into a number of lineages (q.v.). 

clan-family — A group of clans (q. v. ) believed to be linked ulti- 
mately by descent from a common ancestor. The six major 
Somali clan-families are Daarood, Hawiye, Isaaq, Dir, Digil, 
and Rahanwayn. 

client, clientage — Clientage involves a relationship in which each 
party gains something. The client attaches himself to a promi- 
nent person to obtain protection, the possibility of advance- 
ment, and the like. The patron acquires a follower and, in case 
of need, the services of the client. 

dhikr — An Islamic technical term relating to the glorifying of Allah 
with certain fixed phases, repeated in a ritual order and ac- 
companied by special breathing and movements. 

diya — Islamic blood compensation paid by a person who has com- 
mitted homicide or wounded another, including injuries in 
traffic accidents. 

fiscal year (FY) — An annual period established for accounting 
purposes. The Somali fiscal year is coterminous with the calen- 
dar year. 

franco valuta — A system permitting the private repatriation of hard 
currency by traders and overseas workers. 

GDP (gross domestic product) — A value measure of the flow of 
domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a 
period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods 
for final consumption and for intermediate production are as- 
sumed to be included in final prices. GDP is sometimes ag- 
gregated and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect 
taxes and subsidies are included; when these have been elimi- 
nated, the result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indi- 
cates that deductions for depreciation of physical assets have 
not been made. 

GNP (gross national product) — GDP (q. v. ) plus the net in- 
come or loss stemming from transactions with foreign countries. 
GNP is the broadest measurement of the output of goods and ser- 
vices by an economy. It can be calculated at market prices, which 
include indirect taxes and subsidies. Because indirect taxes and 


Somalia: A Country Study 

subsidies are only transfer payments, GNP is often calculated 
at a factor cost, removing indirect taxes and subsidies. 
International Monetary Fund (IMF) — Established along with 
the World Bank (q. v.) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency 
affiliated with the United Nations and is responsible for stabiliz- 
ing international exchange rates and payments. The main busi- 
ness of the IMF is the provision of loans to its members (in- 
cluding industrialized and developing countries) when they ex- 
perience balance of payments difficulties. These loans frequendy 
carry conditions that require substantial internal economic ad- 
justments by the recipients, most of which are developing 

lineage — A group of persons tracing descent from a common an- 
cestor; in Somalia the ancestor is male, and descent is traced 
through males. The group carries his name. A lineage may 
be part of a larger one and may consist of several smaller ones. 

Somali shilling (Sh) — Currency of Somalia since national in- 
dependence in 1960; divided into 100 Somali cents (centesi- 
mi). Exchange rates have varied considerably; average rates 
for the years 1987-89 as follows: US$1 equaled Shl05.18 
(1987); SM07.45 (1988); Sh490.68 (1989); Sh2,636 (Novem- 
ber 10, 1992). From 1960 to 1971, US$1 equaled 7.143 shill- 
ings. The shilling began to fluctuate in the 1970s but remained 
around 6 to 7 shillings per US dollar. Beginning in 1981, a 
two- tier system was introduced, with the official rate follow- 
ing the market rate. 

wadad (pi., wadaddo) — A religious figure or functionary; mem- 
ber of an Islamic religious order or brotherhood or of a heredi- 
tary lineage of religious figures; the Arabic term shaykh is 
sometimes used for wadad. 

waranle — Spear carrier (warrior). Applied to adult males, par- 
ticularly those of the pastoral tradition; excluded from this 
category are religious figures {wadad — q.v.). 

World Bank — Informal name used to designate a group of four 
affiliated international institutions: the International Bank for 
Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International 
Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Cor- 
poration (IFC), and the multilateral Investment Guarantee 
Agency (MIGA). The IBRD, established in 1945, has the 
primary purpose of providing loans to developing countries for 
productive projects. The IDA, a legally separate loan fund but 
administered by the staff of the IBRD, was set up in 1960 to 
furnish credits to the poorest developing countries on much eas- 
ier terms than those of conventional IBRD loans. The IFC, 



founded in 1956, supplements the activities of the IBRD 
through loans and assistance specifically designed to encourage 
the growth of productive private enterprises in the less devel- 
oped countries. The MIGA, founded in 1988, insures private 
foreign investment in developing countries against various non- 
commercial risks. The president and certain senior officers of 
the IBRD hold the same positions in the IFC . The three insti- 
tutions are owned by the governments of the countries that sub- 
scribe their capital. To participate in the World Bank group, 
member states must first belong to the International Mone- 
tary Fund (IMF — q.v.). 



Aadan Shaykh, Mahammad, 46 
Abdi, Abdulqaadir Kosar, 193 
Abdi, Ahmad Ismaaiil, 192 
Abdullah, Abdirrahman (shaykh), 99 
Abdullah, Ahmad Sulaymaan, 42, 45, 49 
Abgaal clan, xxx, 155-56, 170, 194 
Abshir, Mahammad, 36, 46, 191 
Abu Dhabi: debt to, 130 
Adal, 6-8 

Afar: broadcasts in, 171 

AFIS. See Trusteeship Administration 

Africa Watch, xxix, xxx, 48, 219, 224 

agricultural production, xxi, 134; areas 
for, 64; decline in, 132; of food 
products, 143; levels of, 141-43 

agricultural products: bananas, 122, 123, 
124, 125, 134, 139, 146, 147, 148; 
coffee, 5; export of, xxvi, 122; process- 
ing of, 148; sugar, 14, 123, 124, 125; 
trade in, 5, 144 

agricultural programs, 126; colonial, 21; 
spending on, 128; success of, 128 

agricultural religious communities, 70, 
76, 98, 99; land for, 100; number of, 

agropastoralists, 136, 143; trade by, with 

pastoralists, 143 
Ahmad, Abdillaahi Yuusuf, 50, 164, 190 
Ahmad, Abdirahman Aidid, 190; arrest- 
ed, 191 
Ahmad, Yuusuf, 190 
Ahmad Guray War College, 208 
Ahmadiyah-Idrisiyah Sufi brotherhood, 
98, 99 

Ahmad Mahamuud Faarah, 49, 194 

AID. See United States Agency for Inter- 
national Development 

Aidid, Mahammad Faarah, xxix, xxx, 
155, 170, 195; meetings of, with Ma- 
hammad, xxxvi, xxxvii 

Ainanche, Mahammad, 40 

Air Defense Forces, 205 

airports, 138 

Ajuuraan. See Ujuuraan 

Algeria: debt to, 130; food relief from, 129 

Alitalia, 139 

Ali "Tour," Abdirahmaan Ahmad, 

Ali, Usmaan Nur, 190 
Allied Council of Foreign Ministers, 18, 

Al Majlis (The Council), 172 

Amarani people, 80 

AMB. See Banana Plantation Monopoly 

Amharic: broadcasts in, 171 

Amministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana della 
Somalia. See Trusteeship Administra- 

Amnesty International, 48, 219 
Amnesty International Report, 1980, 221 
Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty (1954), 29 
Arab Fund for Economic and Social De- 
velopment: debt to, 130 
Arabia: trade with, 121 
Arabic, 104, 106; broadcasts in, 171; as 
language of administration, 43; as lan- 
guage of instruction, 21, 43, 108, 109; 
as language of publication, 171 
Arab League. See League of Arab States 
Arab Organization for Space Communi- 
cations (Arabsat), 141 
Arabs: influence of, 4 
Arabsat. See Arab Organization for Space 

armed forces {see also military): atrocities 
committed by, 224; build-up of, 28; 
command structure, 204; conditions of 
service, 206-8; conscription in, 202, 
206; development of, 198-202; dissatis- 
faction of, with Igaal government, 36; 
discontinuation of, 186-87; and econ- 
omy, 204; expansion of, xxvi; and 
government, 202; ground forces, 
204-5; irregulars in, 207; materiel of, 
181, 204-6; mission, 204-6; number 
of personnel in, 181, 196; organi- 
zation, 204-6; percentage of budget 
spent on, xxvi; police in, 215; reputa- 
tion of, 206-7; reserves, 207; in Somali 
society, 202-4; Soviet influence on, 
xxiv; training, 207-8; in warfare, 
attorney general, 161 
Australia: financial support from, 129 
Azienda Monopolio Banane. See Banana 
Plantation Monopoly 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Baardheere Dam, 137 
Bahrain: trade with, 149 
Bajuni people, 80 
balance of payments, 21, 149 
Banaadir coast, 11, 121 
Banaadir hinterlands, 8-9 
Banana Plantation Monopoly (AMB), 

bananas, 14; export of, 122, 123, 124, 
125, 134, 139, 146, 147, 148; invest- 
ment in, 123; production of, 123, 147 

bandits, xxxii, 16, 29, 184; former mili- 
tary officers as, 187 

banking: lack of, 133; private, permitted, 
133, 134 

Baraawe, 8, 121 

Baraawi, Awes Mahammad (shaykh), 99 

baraka: significance of, 101 

Barre, Abdirahmaan Jaama, 48, 49 

Bayih, Berhanu, 194 

Bay Region, 70 

Belgium: in Operation Restore Hope, 

Bender Cassim: Islamism in, 104 
Berbera, 69; as British capital, 17; as 

center of Muslim culture, 5; port of, 


Berlin West Africa Conference (1884-85), 

bokor, 74 
Boni people, 80 
Boorama (northwest) area, 46 
border guard, 206 
Botha, Roelof, 47, 213 
bourgeois class, 122, 124 
Boutros-Ghali, Boutros, xxxii; reaction 
to, xxxvi 

Britain, 177; conquest of Italian Soma- 
liland by, xxii; conquest of Ogaden by, 
xxii; economic subsidies from, xxiv, 10; 
military aid from, 210; trade with, 10, 

British Broadcasting Corporation, 48 
British Military Administration, 16-20, 

214; development under, 16 
British rule {see also Somaliland, British), 
xxii; criminal justice under, 217; eco- 
nomic development under, xxii; edu- 
cation under, xxii, 24, 106; health care 
under, xxii; livestock under, 121; mili- 
tary under, 198-99; motives for, 10-11; 
resistance against, 13; Somalia as sup- 
ply post under, xxii 

British-Somali relations, 31, 48 

Brooke Amendment, 177 

Bulgaria: debt to, 130 

Burao, 116, 194; demonstration in, 193, 

222; destroyed, 50, 92, 222-24 
Burton, Richard, 9 
Bush, George, xxxii; visit by, xxxvi 

Camel Corps, 199 
camels, 121 

Canada: in Operation Restore Hope, 

Carletti (governor), 14 

cease-fire agreements, xxxvi 

census of 1975, 66; of nomad population, 

66-67; of settled population, 66 
Central Prison of Mogadishu, 220, 


Central Rangelands Project, 128 
chiefs, 79; appointed by colonial authori- 
ties, 79 

China, 21; economic assistance from, 31; 
debt to, 130; food relief from, 129; mili- 
tary assistance from, 181, 213; trade 
with, 121 
China-Somali relations, 30 
Chisimayu, 69; port of, 70, 139 
Chisimayu Region, 11 
Christian-Muslim relations, 8 
civet, 5 

civil code: under Siad Barre, 160-61 
civil rights: under 1979 constitution, 

civil servants, 124; bribes collected by, 

144, 146; as elite, 83-84, 90, 91; layoffs 

of, 133; political indoctrination of, 38; 

salaries of, 146 
civil service, 84, 160; employment in, 


civil war: casualties from, 117, 153; clan- 
families in, 73; origins of, 92, 94; refu- 
gees from, 115 

clan consciousness, xxi 

clan-families (see also under individual fam- 
ilies), 57, 88; economic systems of, xxi; 
functions of, 73; occupations of, xxi, 71; 
as percentage of population, xxi; sig- 
nificance of, 84-85; social structure of, 

clan rivalries, xxiv, 58, 71-73, 163, 187; 

increase in, 34, 85 
clans (see also under individual clans), 57; 



alignments of, 75; chiefs of, 79; con- 
federacies of, 75; diya-paying group, 
75-76; importance of, 58-59; militias 
of, 16; political parties of, 17-18, 27; 
population of, 75; prestige of, 75, 78; 
reprisals against, xxviii, xxix, 45, 48, 
50, 51-52, 164; role of, xxi; under Siad 
Barre, 153, 163; strata of, 78, 83 

clan system, 93-94; government attempts 
to dismantle, 88, 188 

clients, 83 

climate, 59-60 

coastal peoples, 79-80 

coastline, 59 

coffee, 5 

Colombo, Emilio, 212 

Colombo, Salvatore: assassinated, 51 

colonial rule, 3; abolition of slavery un- 
der, 82; chiefs appointed under, 79; 
consolidation of, 14; impact of, 82; Is- 
lam under, 102-4; official class under, 
122; opposition to, 102; plantations un- 
der, 122-24; resistance to, 13; sharia 
courts under, 160; trade under, 124 

communications, 140-41; expenditures 
for, 138 

communications networks, xxvi 

constitution of provisional government, 
157-58, 225 

constitution of 1961, 157-58; civil rights 
under, 220; flaws in, xxiv; framing of, 
22; freedom of religion in, 103; govern- 
ment in, 158; referendum on, 27; 
repealed, 38; suspended, 37, 160 

constitution of 1979, 157; amended, 47; 
civil rights under, xxvi-xxviii, 220-21; 
legislature under, xxviii; president un- 
der, xxviii 

Consultative Group of Aid Donors, 133 

Contini, Paolo, 27 

cooperatives, 126; agricultural, 128, 129; 
fishing, 69, 128, 129, 129, 148; invest- 
ment in, 128; nomads settled in, 129; 
organization of, 128; problems in, 128 

Corpo di Polizia della Somalia. See Police 
Corps of Somalia 

Corpo Zaptie, 214 

corruption: clan system as source of, 84; 

concern with, 36; in government, xxiv, 

130; prosecution of, 38 
cotton: exports, 123-24; investment in, 

123; production, 123 
Council for National Reconstruction and 

Salvation manifesto, xxix, 167; arrest 
of signatories to, xxix, 52, 167; issues 
of, xxix 

Council of Ministers, 132, 158; under 
Husseen, 32; under Siad Barre, 45; 
women's rights declared by, 89 
Council of the Secretaries of State, 38, 202 
coup d'etat of 1969, xxiv, 3, 36-37, 153 
coups d'etat, attempted, 50, 164, 188, 
189, 221 

courts, 17, 161-63; appeals, 161-62; dis- 
trict, 161; regional, 161 
criminal justice, 217-18 
Criminal Procedure Code, 219 
Cuba: military assistance of, to Ethiopia, 

Culaid, Ahmad Mahammad, 192 
culpability (see also diya), 93, 188, 218 
cultivators, 73-74, 76-77, 91; non- 
Somalis as, 80; as percent of popula- 
tion, 57 

currency: devaluation of, xxvi, 48, 134 
customary law, 218; women under, 89 

Daarood clan-family, xxi, 71, 166; origins 
of, 6; as percentage of population, xxi, 
73; political influence of, 42, 88, 93, 
163; political parties of, 18, 27 

Daarood Jabarti (shaykh), 6 

Daaud, 51 

da Gama, Pedro, 8 

debt, foreign: amount of, 130; distribu- 
tion of, 130; after Ogaden War, xxvi; 
rescheduling of, 130; restructuring of, 

dei Vecchi di Val Cismon, Cesare Ma- 
ria, 14, 123 

Democratic Front for the Liberation of 
Somalia (DFLS), 190 

demonstrations: casualties in, xxix, 18, 
52, 167, 224; January 1948, 18; July 
1989, xxix, 52, 167; July 1990, 52, 224 

dervishes. See Sufi brotherhoods 

detention, 187-88 

Development Plan (1974-78), 128 

DFLS. See Democratic Front for the 
Liberation of Somalia 

Digil clan-family, xxi, 77-79; genealogies 
of, 77; geographic distribution of, xxi; 
occupations of, xxi; as percentage of 
population, xxi, 73; social structure of, 
77; status of, 74 


Somalia: A Country Study 

Diiriye, Haaji, 15 

Dir clan-family, xxi, 71, 166; as percent- 
age of population, xxi, 73; political par- 
ties of, 18, 27 

dissidents, 36; fighting by, 47; reprisals 
against, 45, 48-50 

districts, 70 

diya: abolished, xxv, 39, 88, 161, 218; un- 
der colonial rule, 217-18 

^>-paying group, 75-76, 77, 78, 82, 83, 
198; abolished, 188, 218; importance 
of, 76, 85; lineages in, 76; non-Somalis 
in, 80 

Djibouti, 23, 174; intervention by, in civil 
war, xxx ; in Operation Restore Hope, 
xxxiv; refugees in, xxx, 224; relations 
with, 172 

drainage, 60-66 

drought, xxx; of 1974-75, 59, 88, 128; of 

1984-85, 59, 148, 154 
Dujuuma port, 71 

Dulbahante clan, xxv, 13, 166, 196; 
alienated by Siad Barre, 166; political 
influence of, 42, 88, 163, 189 

Durogba, Ali Maye, 99 

Duub Cas. See Red Berets 

Eastern Europe: relations with, xxiv 

economic development, 16, 24, 125-30; 
under Siad Barre, 37, 153 

economic subsidies: from Britain, xxiv, 
125; from Italy, xxiv, 125 

economy: and armed forces, 204; coloni- 
al, 122-25 

education, 106-10, 128; adult, 110; un- 
der colonial authorities, 17, 21, 24, 82, 
106, 108; of habash, 82; higher, 21, 108, 
110; preprimary, 108; primary, 21, 
108, 109; public, 106; religious, 106; 
secondary, 21, 108, 109-10; under Siad 
Barre, 108; system of, 108; of women, 

EEC. See European Economic Com- 

Egypt, 11-12, 21; mediation of, in polit- 
ical crisis, 167; military aid from, 176, 
209-10; in Operation Restore Hope, 

elections: of 1956, 22; of 1960, 25; of 
1963, 31; of 1964, 32; of 1967, 33; of 
1969, xxiv, 34; of 1979, 46, 158-59; of 
1984, 158-59; of 1986, 158 

elevation, 63; of Somali Plateau, 64 
elite groups: bureaucratic, 83, 90, 91; 
forces affecting, 83; targeted for eradi- 
cation, 37 

energy, 137-38; petroleum, 137-38; pow- 
er plants, 137; sources, xxvi; wind, 138 

English: broadcasts in, 171; as language 
of administration, 43, 83, 105, 125; as 
language of instruction, 21, 43, 105; as 
language of publication, 171 

Ethiopia, 12-13, 16, 23; conflicts with, 6; 
Haud claimed by, 29; jihad against, 8; 
military power of, 181; Ogaden 
returned to, xxii, 16, 19; prohibition on 
jihad against, 6-8; protection by, 6; 
provisional government of, 174; raids 
against, 172; refugees from, xxvi, 67, 
172; refugees in, xxx, 115, 117, 173, 
174, 224; relations of, with Kenya, 30; 
relations with, 172; Soviet military sup- 
port for, 183; support by, of opposition 
groups, 181-82, 190 

Ethiopian Air Force, 184 

Ethiopian rule (see also Somaliland, Ethio- 
pian), xxii, 5; resistance against, 13 

Ethiopia-Somali relations, 182; under 
Igaal, 34 

ethnic history, 4-5 

European Development Fund: financial 
aid from, 141 

European Economic Community (EEC), 
177; associate membership in, 31 ; food 
relief from, 129 

exports: of agricultural products, xxvi; of 
bananas, 122, 123, 124, 125, 134, 139, 
146, 147, 148; of cotton, 123-24; 
decline in, 134, 136; of forestry 
products, xxvi, 147, 148; to Italy, 31, 
148; of labor, 121-22; oflivestock, xxvi, 
121, 124, 125, 133, 134-36, 148; of 
manufactured goods, 130-32, 134; to 
Saudi Arabia, 148; to United Arab 
Emirates, 149; to Yemen, 148 

Faarah, Muse Islan, 190 
famine, 154 

FAO. See United Nations Food and 

Agriculture Organization 
farms, model, 125 

Federal Republic of Germany (West Ger- 
many): aid from, 31; military aid from, 



209; police force trained by, xxiv, 31, 
212-13, 215; relations with, 31 

fighting: among opposition groups, xxx, 
168-69, 170; casualties of, xxx; during 
cease-fire, xxxvi; in Mogadishu, xxx 

Filonardi, Vincenzo, 11 

Finland: financial aid from, 137 

Fire Brigade, 216 

First Charter of the Revolution, 37 

fishing sector, xxvi, 148; as percent of 
gross domestic product, 129; produc- 
tion in, 148 

Five- Year Plan (1987-91), 134 

food: aid, 139, 143, 177; import of, 148; 
production, 143 

food distribution: coordinated by wom- 
en, xxxiv- xxxvi; obstacles to, xxxii; in 
Operation Restore Hope, xxxiv; by 
Red Cross, xxxvi 

foreign aid, 125; from Australia, 129; 
from China, 31; dependence on, 176; 
from Germany, 31; from Italy, 31; 
from Kuwait, 176; from Qatar, 176; 
from Saudi Arabia, 176; from Soviet 
Union, 30-31; from United Arab 
Emirates, 176; from United States, 31, 
46, 47, 48 

foreign exchange, 141 

foreign relations, 30-31; under Igaal, 33; 
role of military in, 200-201; under Siad 
Barre, 182 

forestry sector, xxvi, 147; exports by, 147, 
148; fuel from, 147 

Forze di Polizia della Somalia. See Police 
Force of Somalia 

France: military aid from, 210; military 
training in, 208; relations with, 31 

franco valuta, 142 

frankincense, 147 

French: broadcasts in, 171 

French Foreign Legion: in Operation Re- 
store Hope, xxxiv 

French rule {see also Somaliland, French), 
xxii; motives for, 11 

Gadabursi clan, 196; resistance move- 
ments of, 93, 166, 169 
Galcaio, 70 
Gareen clan, 9 

GDP. See gross domestic product 
Geledi clan, 78-79, 84; nobles of, 78; so- 
cial structure of, 78; sociopolitical or- 

ganization of, 78-79 
General Daoud Military Academy, 208 
German Democratic Republic (East Ger- 
many): advisers from, 215; debt to, 
130; prisons built by, 220; relations 
with, xxiv; training by, 215 
Ghalib, Umar Arteh, xxix, 155; back- 
ground of, 156 
Gladstone, William, 122 
GNP. See gross national product 
gold, 5 

government, local, 159-60; under consti- 
tution of 1961, 159; dissolved by Siad 
Barre, xxviii, 39, 159; members of, 
160; reorganized, 159 

grain: import of, xxiv, 22, 23, 125 

Greater Somalia, 19, 28-30, 182; aban- 
donment of, 183-84; disagreements 
over, 32; under Igaal, 33; preoccupa- 
tion with, 28 

Greater Somali League (GSL), 23, 24, 
28; clans in, 27 

Grechko, Andrei, 209 

gross domestic product (GDP): fishing as 
percentage of, 129, 148; forestry as per- 
centage of, 147; increase in, 134; manu- 
facturing as percentage of, 148; min- 
ing as percentage of, 147 

gross national product (GNP): per capi- 
ta, 134 

GSL. See Greater Somali League 
guban (scrub land), 60-63 
guerrilla campaigns: against Kenya, 29 
guestworkers, 122, 141-42; remittances 

from, 141-42, 146 
Guray, Ahmad (imam), 8 

Habar Gidir clan, xxx, 155-56, 170, 194 
habash, 80; educational opportunities for, 

Haile Selassie, 14, 19, 30, 182, 201; pres- 
sure by, to return Ogaden, 16 
HANGASH (military police), 221, 222 
Harer, Muslim Emirate of, 13 
Hargeysa, 116, 124, 194; as British cap- 
ital, 17; destroyed, xxviii, 50, 70, 92, 
117, 154, 173, 221-22; origins of, 70 
Hasan, Mahammad Abdille ("Mad Mul- 
lah"), xxii, xxv, 99, 102; death of, 13; 
as hero, 199; jihad of, 13, 198-99 
Haud, 19, 63-64; claimed by Ethiopia, 
29; claimed by Somalia, 24-25, 29; 


Somalia: A Country Study 

fighting in, 29-30; land use in, 136; 
nomad migrations to, 68; vegetation of, 

Hawiye clan-family, xxix, xxx, 71, 84, 
155-56; alienated by Siad Barre, 46; as 
percentage of population, xxi, 73; po- 
litical influence of, 93, 166; political 
parties of, 28; Siad Barre 's reprisals 
against, xxviii, xxix, 48, 50, 51-52; up- 
rising by, against Siad Barre, 92 

HDM. See Hisbia Digil Mirifle 

health, 17, 100-12; care distribution, 112, 
128; care personnel, 111, 112, 124; en- 
vironmental impact on, 1 10; problems, 
111-12, 115 

heer, 17, 57, 73 

Heine, Bernd, 5 

herders, 76, 91 

Hersi, Daud Abdullaahi, 200 

Hersi Morgan, Mahammad Siad, xxxvi 

High Court, xxviii 

Higher Judicial Council, 162-63 

Hisbia Digil Mirifle (HDM), 18, 21, 24 

Hobyo, Sultan of, 11 

Home Guard, 207 

humanitarian aid: dependence on, 45 
human rights, 220-25; violations, 48, 

177, 201, 204, 211-12, 221-22 
Hunter, A. (major), 11 
hunters, 80 

Husseen, Abdirizaq Haaji: chosen prime 

minister, 32 
Husseen, Haaji Mahammad, 23, 28 
Husseen, Idris Jaama, 190 
Husseen administration, 31-33 

IDA. See International Development As- 

Id al Adha, 103 

Idris al Fasi, Ahmad ibn, 99 

Igaal, Mahammad Ibrahim, 28; jailed for 
corruption, 40, 221; released from jail, 

Igaal, Yuusuf, 15 
Igaal administration, 33-36 
IGADD. See Inter-Governmental Author- 
ity on Drought and Development 
Iise, Abdullaahi, 22, 23, 51 
Iise clan, 166, 196 

IMF. See International Monetary Fund 
imports: from Bahrain, 149; from Britain, 

149; of food, 148; of grain, 125; from 

Italy, 149; from Norway, 149 
independence: obstacles to, xxiv 
independence (cultural characteristic), 

xxi; in elections, xxiv 
India: trade with, 121 
Industrial Export, Import, and Foreign 

Trade Company, 137 
inflation, 134 

infrastructure, xxiv, 21, 24; investment 
in, 21, 125, 138; lack of, 133 

Intelsat. See International Telecommuni- 
cations Satellite Organization 

Inter-Governmental Authority on 
Drought and Development (IGADD), 

internal security, 187-96 

International Court of Justice, 24 

International Covenant on Civil and Po- 
litical Rights, 224 

International Development Association 
(IDA), 132 

International Military Education and 
Training Program, 177 

International Monetary Fund (IMF): aid 
from, 46; pressure from, 48; standby 
agreements with, 132 

International Telecommunications Satel- 
lite Organization (Intelsat), 140 

interriverine area: land use in, 136 

Iran: military aid from, 209, 210 

Iraq: debt to, 130; military aid from, 210; 
petroleum imports from, 137 

irrigation, 89-90, 122; investment in, 
125; support for, 129 

Isaaq clan-family, xxi, xxix, 71, 156, 174; 
alienated by Siad Barre, 46; geographic 
distribution of, 50; killed, 51, 224; op- 
position of, to Siad Barre, 164; origins 
of, 6; as percentage of population, xxi, 
73; political influence of, 93; political 
parties of, 27; as refugees, 116; resis- 
tance movements of, 93; Siad Barre 's 
reprisals against, xxviii, xxix, 48, 49, 
50-51, 164; uprising by, against Siad 
Barre, 92 

Isahaaq (shaykh), 6 

Islam (see also religion): in colonial era, 
102-4; conversion to, 4, 6, 80; cult 
of saints in, 100; five pillars of, 96; folk, 
100-102; ideal of, 94; importance of, 
58; introduction of, xxi, 5-6, 96; loy- 
alty to, 94; reinterpretation of, 102-3; 



religious orders of, 97-100; religious 
roles in, 97; and scientific socialism, 58, 
103, 188; Shia, 96; under Siad Barre, 
xxv, 58, 188; sunna of, 96; Sunni, 96; 
tenets of, 96; training in, 97 

Islamic brotherhoods, 70 

Islamic fundamentalism. See Islamism 

Islamic militants: support for, xxxvii 

Islamic socialism, 103 

Islamism: rise of, 104; role of, xxxvii 

Ismail, Khedive, 11 

Italian, 106; broadcasts in, 171; as lan- 
guage of administration, 43, 83, 105, 
125; as language of instruction, 21, 43, 
105; as language of publication, 171 

Italian rule (see also Somaliland, Italian), 
xxii; criminal justice under, 217; eco- 
nomic development under, xxii, 14; 
education under, xxii, 106, 108; health 
care under, xxii 

Italo-Somali Agricultural Society (SAIS), 

Italy, 21; economic assistance from, 31, 
129, 139, 177; economic cooperation 
with, 147, 148; economic subsidies 
from, xxiv; exports to, 31, 123, 148; 
food relief from, 129; invasion of Brit- 
ish Somaliland by, xxii, 14, 200; medi- 
ation of, in political crisis, 167; military 
aid from, 212; military training in, 208, 
212; in Operation Restore Hope, 
xxxiv; plantations under, 122; police 
force trained by, 31, 207, 215 

Ittihad. See Somali Islamic Union 

jamaa. See agricultural religious commu- 
Jamal, Vali, 142-43 
Jebro, Ibrahim Hassan, 98 
Jess, Ahmad Omar, xxxvi, 195 
jiffo-paying group, 76 
jihad, 198 

Jilani, Abd al Qadir al, 98 
Jordan: military aid from, 210 
Jubbada Dhexe Region, 71 
Jubbada Hoose Region, 71 
Jubba River, 65 
July massacres, 52, 167 

KAR. See King's African Rifles 
Karkaar Mountains, 59, 63 

kat. See qat 

Kedie, Salah Gaveire, 40 

Keenadiid, Yuusuf Ali (sultan) 10, 10, 11 

Kenya, 23; independence talks, 28-29; as 
source of labor for British, 124; refu- 
gees in, xxx, 117, 174, 184, 224; rela- 
tions of, with Ethiopia, 30 

Kenyan rule (see also Somaliland, 
Kenyan), xxii 

Kenya-Somali relations, 172; under Igaal, 
34; under Siad Barre, 172-73, 184 

Kenyatta, Jomo, 30, 182 

KFAED. See Kuwait Fund for Arab Eco- 
nomic Development 

Khadiija, Mama, 49 

King's African Rifles (KAR), 199, 200 

Kouchner, Bernard, xxxii 

Kulmiye, Husseen, 49, 128 

Kuwait: debt to, 130; economic aid from, 
xxvi; military aid from, 210 

Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic De- 
velopment (KFAED), 128, 129 

Lagarde, Leonce, 11 

land, 136-37; arable, 136; area, 59; 

forest, 136; market for, 136-37, 144; 

permanent pasture, 136; rights, 136, 


language, 104-6; of administration, 43; 
facility with, valued, 105; of instruc- 
tion, 43; issues, 43-44; official, 58; and 
social stratification, 106 

Law Number 1, 37-38 

Law on Cooperative Development (1973), 

League of Arab States (Arab League), 47; 
intervention by, in civil war, xxx; mem- 
bership in, 176, 177, 210 

legal system, 160-61; traditions in, 17, 

Legislative Assembly, 22, 25 

Legislative Council, 25 

legislature, 158-59; under 1979 constitu- 
tion, xxvi-xxviii; under provisional 
government, 159; under Siad Barre, 

Lewis, I.M., 35, 75 

Libya: debt to, 130; military aid from, 

213-14; relations with, 48, 176, 193; 

support by, for opposition groups, 190 
Libyan Arab Airlines, 213 


Somalia: A Country Study 

lineage groups, 57, 77-78; conflict be- 
tween, 58, 85; importance of, 58-59; 
non-Somali attachment to, 80; religious 
affiliations of, 100; targeted for eradi- 
cation, 37, 39 

literacy, 43, 108; campaign, xxv, 44, 106, 
110; rate, 44, 110; and social stratifi- 
cation, 106 

livestock, 146; under British rule, 121; 
control of, 90; destruction of, 50; ex- 
port of, xxvi, 124, 125, 133, 134-36, 
142, 144, 148; forage for, 66; impor- 
tance of, 121; source of, for British, 
xxii, 10, 121; trade, 84, 90, 121, 133 

Livestock Development Agency, 125 

loans, foreign, xxiv 

Luigi Amadeo of Savoy (prince), 122 

Mad Mullah. See Hasan, Mahammad 

Mahammad, Ali Mahdi, xxx, 170; back- 
ground of, 156; clan membership of, 
155; meetings of, with Aidid, xxxvi, 
xxxvii; as president of provisional 
government, xxix. 155 

Mahamuud, Ismaan, 10, 11 

Mahamuud "Silanyo," Ahmad Maham- 
mad, 193 

Majeerteen clan-family, 164, 190; alienat- 
ed by Siad Barre, 46; killed, 51; oppo- 
sition of, to Siad Barre, xxviii, 92, 164; 
political influence of, 42, 88; resistance 
movements of, 93; Siad Barre' s repri- 
sals against, xxix, 48, 49, 50, 164 

Majeerteen sultanates, 10, 11; British 
subsidies for, 10 

malaria, 111 

malnutrition, 112 

Mandera Prison: attack on, 166, 192 

manufacturing sector, 148; decline of, 
130-32, 134; government organization 
of, 129; as percentage of gross domes- 
tic product, 148 

Mareehaan clan, xxv, xxxvi, 42, 88, 163, 
189, 206-7 

Mariano, Michael, 24, 25, 27 

marriage ceremonies, 39 

Masala, Umar Haaji, 46 

materiel, 198; import of, 204, 208, 213; 
lost in Ogaden War, xxvi, 181; pur- 
chase of, xxvi, 142; serviceability of, 

205; from South Africa, 47, 213; from 
Soviet Union, 205; from United States, 
47, 205 

Maydh, port of, 139 

measles, 115 

meat: export of, 139 

Medecins Sans Frontieres, 193 

media, 170-72; government control of, 

170- 71; under provisional government, 

171- 72 

medieval period: political organization in, 

6; trade during, 5, 121 
Menelik II (emperor), 12, 198 
Mengistu, Haile-Mariam, 48, 174, 194; 

talks with, 173 
Merca, 8, 70, 121; port of, 139 
merchant class, 84, 91-92 
migrations: directions of, 4, 5, 6; limits 

on, 90-91 ; of nomads, 68-69; to urban 

areas, 92 

military: advisers, 209; police, 221, 222; 
schools, 208; spending, 204; training, 
208, 209 

military aid, 196, 208-14, 210; loans, 
208; materiel, 208; from Soviet Union, 
208; from United States, xxvi, xxxii, 
46, 47, 177, 209; from West Germa- 
ny, 209 

military officers: attempted coup d'etat 
by, 50; in courts, 162; in local govern- 
ment, 159; opposition of, to Siad Barre, 
xxix, 166; political roles of, xxviii, 38; 
rebellion by, 27 

mineral deposits, xxvi, 24, 59 

minerals: trade in, 5 

mining, 147 

Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, 157; 

duties of, xxix-xxx 
Ministry of Defense, 204 
Ministry of Health, 112 
Ministry of Information and National 
Guidance, 45, 171; Broadcasting Depart- 
ment, 171; censorship board of, 39; po- 
litical education by, 39 
Ministry of Interior, 39, 202, 215 
Ministry of Local Government and Ru- 
ral Development, 113, 115, 159 
Ministry of National Planning, 67 
Ministry of National Planning and Jub- 

ba Valley Development, 115 
Mirreh, Hasan Ali, 190 
Mobile Military Court, 221-22 
MOD (Mareehaan-Ogaden-Dulbahante) 



clans, xxv, 42, 45, 189 
Mogadishu, 8-9, 69, 121; destroyed, 117, 
153; fighting in, xxx; history of, 8-9; 
influence of, 9; origin of name of, 8-9; 
population of, 57; port of, 139; refugees 
in, 57 

Mogadishu International Airport, 139 
Moi, Daniel arap, 173 
Mudug Plain, 46; land use in, 136; vege- 
tation of, 66 
Mukha, sharifs of, xxii, 9 
Mukha rule, xxii, 5 
Municipal Council, 21 
Muse, Yuusuf, 222 
Muslim resistance movement, xxii 
Muslims: Ethiopian protection of, 6 
Mussolini, Benito, 14, 122 
myrrh, 147 

Nasser, Gamal Abdul, 103 

National Adult Education Center, 110 

National Assembly, 23-24; abolished, 37, 

158, 202; corruption in, 36; elections, 


National Banana Board, 147 

National Development Strategy and 
Programme, 133 

National Drought Relief Committee, 128 

national integration: as goal of govern- 
ment, xxiv; problems of, 26-28 

nationalism, 199; growth of, xxii, 125; 
pursuit of, xxv, 188 

nationalization, 126 

National Police Academy, 16 

National Political Office {see also Nation- 
al Public Relations Office), 45; 
abolished, 45 

National Public Relations Office {see also 
National Political Office), 44 

National Refugee Commission, 113, 115 

National Security Courts, xxviii, 38, 162, 
221; cases heard by, 38 

National Security Service (NSS), 39, 187, 
217, 222; established by East Germans, 
xxiv; power of, 188; Soviet assistance 
in, 217 

National United Front (NUF), 24 
natural gas: exploration for, 138, 147 
navy, 205-6 

nepotism: clan system as source of, 84; 
concern with, 36; in government, xxiv, 

nobles, 78; status of, 79 

nomadic pastoralism, xxi 

nomads: cooperative programs for, 128, 
129; education of, 109, 124; geographic 
distribution of, 63; importance of 
livestock to, 121; importance of radios 
to, 26; literacy of, 44, 106; migrations 
of, 68-69; as percentage of population, 
68; population of, 67; religious leaders 
among, 94; religious practices of, 97; 
resettlement of, 39-40, 88, 129, 148; 
settled, 84 

non-clan groups, 74 

non-Somali peoples, 79-80; ancestors of, 
79, 80; geographical distribution of, 80; 
occupations of, 80 

north: characteristics of, 26 

north- south dichotomy, 26; under coloni- 
al rule, 14; language in, 105 

North-Eastern Region (of Kenya), 173 

Northern Frontier District {see also 
Somaliland, Kenyan), 182; fighting in, 
28; Somali attempts to regain, 28-29 

Northern Rangeland Development 
Project, 128 

Northwest Region Agricultural Develop- 
ment Project, 128 

Norway: trade with, 149 

NSS. See National Security Service 

Nugaal Valley, 63; nomad migrations to, 

Oakley, Robert B., xxxvi 
occupational groups, 82; advantages of, 

83; education of, 82; status of, 22 
OECD. See Organisation for Economic 

Co-operation and Development 
official class, 122, 124, 125, 144 
Ogaden {see also Somaliland, Ethiopian), 

xxii, 13; attempts to regain, xxii, 130; 

British conquest of, xxii; insurrection 

in, 156, 201; returned to Ethiopia, xxii, 

16, 19 

Ogaden clan, xxv; alienated by Siad 
Barre, 166; opposition of, to Siad 
Barre, xxix, 166; political influence of, 
42, 88, 163, 189; resistance movements 
of, 93 

Ogaden War, xxv-xxvi, 28, 45, 176, 181, 
184-86, 196, 201; battles of, 185-86; 
casualties in, xxvi; debt caused by, 
xxvi; defeat in, 164, 166, 183, 186, 189; 


Somalia: A Country Study 

ended, xxvi; government decline after, 
92, 166; launched, xxv; legacy of, 92, 
189; materiel lost in, xxvi; military aid 
in, 209-10; origins of, 184-85; refugees 
from, 45, 112 

Ogo, 63; nomad migrations to, 68; rain- 
fall in, 63; vegetation of, 64 

oil {see also petroleum): exploration for, 

Oman: military aid from, 210 
Omani rule, xxii, 9 

OPEC. See Organization of the Petro- 
leum Exporting Countries 

Operation Restore Hope, xxxiv; coalition 
members of, xxxiv; food distribution 
under, xxxiv; number of personnel in, 
xxxvi; town meetings under, xxxiv 

opposition movements, 45, 164-67, 181, 
189-96; campaigns of, xxix; clashes 
among, 169; Ethiopian support for, 
181-82; former military officers in, 187; 
reprisals against, xxviii, 166; rise of, 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation 
and Development (OECD): debt to, 

Organization of African Unity, 182; in- 
tervention by, in civil war, xxx; inter- 
vention by, in the Haud, 30; member- 
ship in, 177 

Organization of the Islamic Conference: 
intervention by, in civil war, xxx 

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting 
Countries (OPEC): debt to, 130 

orientation centers, 39 

Oromo, 29; broadcasts in, 171 

ostrich feathers, 5, 10, 121 

Ottoman rule, xxii, 5 

Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza, 211 

pan-Somalism. See Greater Somalia 

paramilitary forces, 206, 207 

parasitic diseases, 112 

Paris Club: debt to, 133 

pastoralists, 73; conflicts among, 85; 
geographic distribution of, 63; as per- 
cent of population, 57; trade by, with 
agropastoralists, 143 

Patriotic Benefit Union, 18 

patrons, 83 

Peace Corps, 202 

peacekeepers, 85-88 

pejorative labels, 77; outlawed, 85 

Penal Code, 219, 220; categories in, 219; 

prosecution under, 219 
penal system, 218-19 
People's Assembly, xxviii, 89, 158 
People's Militia. See Victory Pioneers 
Persian Gulf War, 176 
petroleum: import of, 137-38 
physical setting, 59 
physicians, 112 

plantation system, 14, 122-23, 136; 
decline of, 146-47; economy of, 146- 
47; exports from, 124; wage labor for, 

poetry, 105 

Police Corps of Somalia (Corpo di Polizia 
della Somalia), 215 

police force (see also Somali Police Force): 
colonial, 214; employment in, 124; 
training of, 212-13 

Police Force of Somalia (Forze di Polizia 
della Somalia), 215 

police officers: political roles of, 38 

Political Bureau, 216 

political candidates, 34 

political organization: in medieval peri- 
od, 6 

political participation, 26 

political parties, 17-18, 27; affiliations 
with, 34; outlawed, xxv, 36; women's 
committees in, 88 

population: clan-families as percentage of, 
xxi; cultivators as percentage of, 57; 
geographic distribution of, 68; homo- 
geneity of, 57; of Mogadishu, 57; in 
1950s, 82; in 1975, 67; in 1990s, 57, 
67; nomads as percentage of, 68; non- 
Somali groups as percentage of, 79; 
pastoralists as percentage of, 57; per- 
centage of, starving to death, xxxii; 
Samaal clans as percentage of, 73; set- 
tled persons as percentage of, 68 

population statistics: age distribution, 68; 
density, 68; mortality rate, 112, 115; 
rate of increase, 68; sex distribution, 68 

ports, 138, 139 

Portuguese: depredations of, 9 
Potsdam Conference (1945), xxii, 18 
president: under 1979 constitution, xxvi- 

xxviii, 158; powers of, 158 
prisoners, 224 

prison system, 219-20; conditions in, 219; 



facilities in, 220; organization of, 220 
protests: against women's rights, 104 
Provisional Government of National Uni- 
ty, xxix, 153, 154, 155-56, 170, 174, 
195; cabinet of, 155; legislature under, 
159; media, 171-72; officers of, xxix; 
opposition to, 155, 168; reaction to, 
xxx; structure of, 155; United States 
recognition of, 177 

Qadhafi, Muammar al, 176 
Qadiriyah Sufi brotherhood, 98-99 
qat: production of, 143, 144; sales of, 143; 

trade in, 144; use of, 143 
Qatar: debt to, 130; economic aid from, 


Qporsheel, Jaama Ali: charged with trea- 
son, 40 
Quran, 96 

radio, 26, 141; stations, 171 

Radio Halgan, 192 

Radio Hargeysa, 172 

Radio Kulmis, 190, 192 

Radio Mogadishu, 171 

radios: importance of, to nomads, 26; 
number of, 171 

Rahanwayn clan-family, xxi, 77-79; 
genealogies of, 77; geographic distribu- 
tion of, xxi; as percentage of popula- 
tion, xxi, 73; resistance movements of, 
93; social structure of, 77; status of, 74 

rainfall, 59, 60, 136; in the Ogo, 63 

RAMB. See Royal Banana Plantation 

rangeland: management of, 128 

Rashidi, Mahammad Guled ar, 99 

real estate: investment in, 142 

reconciliation, xxxvi; talks, 167-68, 169 

Red Berets (Duub Cas), xxviii; reign of 
terror by, 48-52, 154, 224 

Red Cross, International Committee of: 
food distribution by, xxxvi 

refugee camps, 113-16; conditions in, 
113-14, 116-17; demographic charac- 
teristics of, 113, 116; distribution of, 
115-16; number of, 113 

refugees, 112-17, 222-24; attacks on, 
224; from civil war, 115; demographic 
characteristics of, 113, 115, 116; in 
Djibouti, xxx, 224; from Ethiopia, 

xxvi, 67, 172; in Ethiopia, xxx, 115, 
1 1 7 , 1 73 , 1 74, 224; in Europe, xxx; in 
Kenya, xxx, 117, 174, 184, 224; in 
Mogadishu, 57; number of, 112, 113, 
116; from Ogaden War, 45, 112; from 
Somalia, xxviii, xxix, 115, 117, 153, 
173, 174; in urban areas, 92; in Yemen, 

Regia Azienda Monopolio* Banane. See 
Royal Banana Plantation Monopoly 

Regional Security Council, 221, 222 

regions, 70 

relative humidity, 60 

relief programs, 116, 129 

religion {see also Islam): evil eye in, 102; 
freedom of, 103; indigenous, 100-102; 
mortal spirits in, 101; rituals in, 102; 
spirit possession in, 101-102 

religious leaders, 94 

religious life, 94-104 

reprisals, 48-50, 137, 154; against clans, 
xxviii, xxix, 45, 48, 50, 51-52, 164; 
against dissidents, 45, 48-50; against 
opposition movements, xxviii, 166; po- 
litical, 45 

Republic of Somaliland, xxxvii, 195; 

proclaimed, xxx, 137, 153, 169 
riverine peoples, 79-80 
roads: investment in, 125; network of, 139 
Romania: financial aid from, 137-38 
Royal Banana Plantation Monopoly 
(RAMB) (Regia Azienda Monopolio 
Banane), 123 
rural areas, 91; economic hardships in, 
90-91; development of, 89-90; farm- 
ers in, 91; lifestyles in, 69, 90-91; pet- 
ty traders in, 91 ; population in, 67, 68; 
population density in, 68; wage workers 
in, 91 
rural councils, 21 
rural subsistence sector, 142-44 
rural-urban cleavages, 58, 85; language 
in, 105 

Sahnoun, Muhammad, xxxii 

SAIS. See Italo-Somali Agricultural 

Salih, Muhammad ibn, 99 

Salihiyah Sufi brotherhood, 13, 98, 99 

Samaal (Samaale), 71 

Samaal clans (see also under individual clan- 
families), 71, 73, 74-77; heads of, 74; 


Somalia: A Country Study 

hierarchy and, 74; as percentage of 
population, 73 

Samantaf, Mahammad Ali, 49, 144 

Saudi Arabia: debt to, 130; economic aid 
from, xx vi; exports to, 148; exports to, 
canceled, 132-33; military aid from, 
176, 209, 210; military training in, 208; 
in Operation Restore Hope, xxxiv; re- 
lations with, 176; support of, for Islamic 
militants, xxxvii 

schools: British, 17, 108; enrollment, 108; 
Italian, 108; nursing, 112; primary, 
xxv, 109; Quranic, 106, 108-9; Roman 
Catholic, 106; secondary, xxv, 109 

scientific socialism, 37, 40-42, 58, 
126-30; campaign for, 103-4; Islam 
under, 58, 103, 188; religious leaders 
under, 94; system of, 42 

SDA. See Somali Democratic Alliance 

seasons: characteristics of, 59-60; social 
significance of, 59-60 

segmental system, 84, 93-94 

settled peoples: conflict of, with nomads, 
85; lifestyles of, 69; literacy of, 44, 106; 
as percentage of population, 68; popu- 
lation of, 67; religious practices of, 97 

Seylac, 69; as center of Muslim culture, 5 

Shabeellaha Hoose Region, 70 

Shabeelle River, 64 

Shafii, Muhammad ibn Idris ash, 96 

sharia, 17, 218; categories of, 96; as 
official law of Republic of Somaliland, 
xxx ; origins of, 96; versions of, 96; 
women under, 89 

sharia courts: under colonial rule, 160; 
discontinued, 161; restrictions on, 39 

Shermaarke, Abdirashiid Ali, xxiv, 24, 32; 
assassinated, xxiv, 36; as president, 33 

Shermaarke Ali Saalih, Haaji, 9-10 

shir, 76 

Short- and Long- Term programme for Refugees 
(Ministry of National Planning and 
Jubba Valley Development), 115 

Siad, Masleh, 49 

Siad Barre, Mahammad: in automobile 
accident, 49; background of, 200, 214; 
in coup of 1969, xxiv, 3, 36, 153; mas- 
sacres ordered by, 51-52; meeting of, 
with Mengistu, 48; named president, 
xxiv, 36; offices held by, 38, 45; after 
Ogaden War, 189; personality cult of, 
42; visit of, to United States, 46 

Siad Barre administration: authoritarian- 

ism of, 153; civil code under, 160-61; 
clan faction in, 49; clans under, 58, 74, 
153, 163, 166; constitutional faction in, 
49; economic development under, 37, 
126, 153; economy under, 89; educa- 
tion under, xxv, 108; foreign relations 
under, 37; Islam under, xxv; language 
under, 58; literacy under, xxv; livestock 
trade under, 90; local governments dis- 
solved by, xxviii; National Assembly 
abolished by, 37, 158, 202; National 
Security Courts under, xxviii; objec- 
tives of, xxv; opposition to, xxviii, 154, 
166, 181; oppression by, 181, 220; 
overthrow of, xxix, 57, 92, 153, 181, 
204; purges of, 130; religion under, 
94-96, 103; reprisals of, against oppo- 
sition groups, xxviii, xxix, 45, 48-50, 
137, 154, 166; security policy of, 
187-89; social development under, 37, 
89-90; social goals of, 37, 58; support 
by, for Western Somali Liberation 
Front, 172; violations of law by, 219; 
women under, 58, 88-89, 220 

Siad Barre Military Academy, 208 

slavery: abolished, 79, 82 

slave trade, 5; in medieval period, 121; 
outlawed, 79 

SNL. See Somali National League 

SNM. See Somali National Movement 

social development, 37 

socialism, 85; pursuit of, xxiv-xxv 

social order, 58; genealogy in, 71 

Societa Agricola Italo-Somala. See Italo- 
Somali Agricultural Society 

society: homogeneity of, xxi; value of lin- 
guistic facility in, 105 

SODAF. See Somali Democratic Action 

soldaan, 74 

Somalfruit, 147 

Somali Aeronautical Corps, 205 

Somalia Gendarmerie, 16, 214-15 

Somali Air Force, 205 

Somali Airlines, 139-40, 205 

Somali Chamber of Commerce, 133 

Somali Companies, 200 

Somali Democratic Action Front 

(SODAF), 190 
Somali Democratic Alliance (SDA), 166, 

169, 196 

Somali Democratic Movement: clan af- 
filiations of, 93, 196 



Somali Democratic Republic: proclaimed, 

Somali Islamic Union (Ittihad), xxxvii 
Somaliland, British, xxii, 3, 10, 13, 14; 
administration of, 16, 122; culture in, 
xxiv; ^a-paying groups in, 75; invest- 
ment in, 122; Italian invasion of, xxii, 
14, 15 

Somaliland, Ethiopian (see also Ogaden), 
xxii, 3, 10, 13, 16 

Somaliland, French, xxii, 3, 13; invest- 
ment in, 122 

Somaliland, Italian, xxii, 3, 10, 11, 13, 
16; British conquest of, xxii, 15; cul- 
ture in, xxiv; investment in, 122; wom- 
en in, 26 

Somaliland, Kenyan (Northern Frontier 

District), xxii, 3, 13 
Somaliland Camel Constabulary, 214 
Somaliland Camel Corps, 16, 199, 200 
Somaliland Coastal Police, 214 
Somaliland Indian Contingent, 199 
Somaliland Police, 199 
Somaliland Police Force, 214 
Somaliland Scouts, 16, 200 
Somali language, 80, 104-5; dialects, 
105; as language of instruction, 106; as 
language of publication, 171; orthog- 
raphy for, xxv, 18, 37, 43, 44, 58, 75, 

Somali Language Committee, 43; dic- 
tionary prepared by, 44; grammar pre- 
pared by, 43; textbooks prepared by, 43 

Somali Levy, 199 

Somali National Army (SNA) (see also 
armed forces; military): demise of, 201; 
foreign policy role of, 200-201 ; materiel 
of, 184; military aid to, 183; mission 
of, 36; number of personnel in, 184, 
200, 204; organization of, 185; repu- 
tation of, 201 

Somali National Congress (SNC): coali- 
tion of, with Somali Youth League, 35; 
initiated, 28 

Somali National Front, xxxvi, 196 

Somali National League (SNL), 25; clans 
in, 27 

Somali National Movement (SNM), 
xxviii, 50, 116, 137, 164-66, 191-95, 
221; agreement signed with United 
Somali Congress, 156, 168, 195; Cen- 
tral Committee of, 169; clan affiliations 
of, 93, 156, 166; conference, 169; con- 

gresses of, 193; goals of, 191; guerrilla 
activities of, 166, 173; military activi- 
ties of, 192-95; opposition of, to Siad 
Barre, 166; party policy of, 169; radio 
broadcasts by, 172; rejection of provi- 
sional government, xxx, 153; weapons 
of, 194 

Somali National News Agency (SON- 
NA), 171 

Somali National University: enrollment 
in, xxv, 110; established, xxv 

Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), xxix; 
agreement signed with United Somali 
Congress, 156, 168, 195; military of- 
ficers allied with, 166; opposition of, to 
United Somali Congress provisional 
government, xxx 

Somali people: ancestral homeland of, 4; 
in Northern Frontier District, 29; ori- 
gin of name of, 5 

Somali Plateau, 63; elevation, 64 

Somali Police Corps, 214 

Somali Police Force, 206, 214-16; ad- 
ministrative structure of, 215; air wing 
of, 215-16; materiel of, 215; missions 
of, 215; Mobile Group, 200, 215; as 
part of armed forces, 215; recruits, 216; 
specialized units of, 215, 216; training 
for, 215, 216 

Somali Ports Authority, 139 

Somali Prisoner of War Guards, 200 

Somali Republic, 3 

Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party 
(SRSP), xxv, 158, 187, 202-4; creation 
of, 44-45, 202; congresses of, 45, 49; 
function of, 163; members of, 163-64 

Somali Salvation Democratic Front 
(SSDF) (see also Somali Salvation 
Front), xxviii, 50, 92, 164, 190-91; clan 
affiliations of, 93; opposition of, to 
United Somali Congress provisional 
government, xxx 

Somali Salvation Front (SSF) (see also 
Somali Salvation Democratic Front), 
164, 190, 221; formed, xxviii, 50 

Somali Workers Party (SWP), 190 

Somali Youth Club (see also Somali Youth 
League): created, xxii, 17 

Somali Youth League (SYL) (see also 
Somali Youth Club), 18, 21; clans in, 
27; coalition of, with Somali National 
Congress, 35; election victories of, 24, 
31, 32; factions in, 23; goals of, xxii, 


Somalia: A Country Study 

18; under Italian trusteeship, 20; 
recruits to, 32-33; trusteeship proposal 
of, 18 

SONNA. See Somali National News 

Soppe, Abdulqaadir, 23 
south: characteristics of, 26 
South Africa: materiel from, 47, 213 
South African Airways, 47, 213 
Southern Somali National Movement 

(SSNM), xxxvi 
Soviet-Somali relations, xxiv, 30, 177, 


Soviet-Somali Treaty of Friendship and 
Cooperation, 183; renounced, 183; 
signed, 209 
Soviet Union: advisers from, 30; debt to, 
130; financial assistance from, 30-31, 
85, 129; food relief from, 129; influence 
of, on armed forces, xxiv, 30; military 
assistance of, 182-83, 205-6; military 
assistance of, to Ethiopia, 181; military 
training by, 30, 207-8; support of, for 
Ethiopia, 183 
SPM. See Somali Patriotic Movement 
SRC. See Supreme Revolutionary Council 
SRSP. See Somali Revolutionary Socialist 

SSDF. See Somali Salvation Democratic 

SSF. See Somali Salvation Front 
SSNM. See Southern Somali National 

Stadia Corna Affair, 52 
starvation, xxix, 59; death by, xxxii 
subclans, 77 

Sudan: food relief from, 129; mediation 

by, 30 
suffrage, 157 

Sufi brotherhoods, xxv; agricultural reli- 
gious communities of, 98; Ahmadiyah- 
Idrisiyah, 98; Chain of Blessing, 100; 
membership in, 100; opposition of, to 
colonial rule, 102; Qadiriyah, 98; Sali- 
hiyah, 98; spread of Islam by, 9 

sugar, 14, 125; output, 124; production, 

Supreme Court, 162 

Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC), 
xxiv, 36, 37-40, 187; dissolved, xxv, 
45; established, 202; foreign relations 
under, 37; goals of, 37; ideology of, 37; 
members of, 37; purged, 37, 40; re- 

vived, xxv, 46; Siad Barre as president 
of, 36; women's rights declared by, 89 
Swahili, 80, 104; broadcasts in, 171 
swamps, 66 
Swayne, E.J.E., 199 
Sweden: food relief from, 129 
Switzerland: food relief from, 129 
SWP. See Somali Workers Party 
SYL. See Somali Youth League 

Taleex, 13 

teachers, 109 

telephones, 141 

television, 171 

temperatures, 60 

terrain, 60-66 

Territorial Council, 21 

Territory of the Afars and Issas {see also 
Djibouti; French Somaliland), 31 

Three- Year Plan, 1979-81, 67, 103, 126 

towns, 69, 80; distribution of, 70; govern- 
ment definition of, 70; merchants in, 

trade, 69, 148-49; with Arabia, 121; 
balance, 149; with China, 121; with In- 
dia, 121; medieval, 5 

traders, 91-92 

trading centers, 69-70 

transportation, 138-40; expenditures for, 
138; improvements in, 138; networks, 

tribalism: denounced, 39 

Trusteeship Administration (AFIS) (Am- 

ministrazione Fiduciaria Italiana della 

Somalia), 20 
Trusteeship Agreement, 19-20; education 

under, 106 
tuberculosis, 111 

Turkey: in Operation Restore Hope, 

Ujuuraan, 9 

Umar Mahamuud lineage, 50 

UN. See United Nations 

UNHCR. See United Nations High Com- 
missioner for Refugees 

uniform civil code (1973), 39 

UNISOM II. See United Nations 



United Arab Emirates, 117; economic aid 
from, xxvi; intervention by, in civil 
war, xxx; military aid from, 210 

United Nations: intervention by, in civil 
war, 154; membership in, 177 

United Nations Advisory Council, 20 

United Nations Conference on the Least 
Developed Countries, 109 

United Nations Consultative Commission 
for Integration, 27 

United Nations Consultative Commission 
for Legislation, 27 

United Nations Declaration of Human 
Rights, 220 

United Nations Development Pro- 
gramme, 20-21, 138; pressure from, 

United Nations Food and Agriculture Or- 
ganization (FAO), 126 

United Nations General Assembly, xxii, 

United Nations High Commissioner for 

Refugees (UNHCR), 112, 116 
United Nations Operations-Somalia 

(UNOSOM II), xxxvi 
United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, 

xxxii; problems with, xxxii 
United Nations Trusteeship Council, 20, 


United Somali Congress (USC) {see also 
Provisional Government of National 
Unity), xxviii, 92, 224; agreements 
with Somali National Movement and 
Somali Patriotic Movement, 156, 168, 
195; clans in, 166; factions in, 154, 170; 
Siad Barre overthrown by, 154; unity 
talks proposed by, xxx 

United Somali Front (USF), 169, 196 

United Somali Party (USP), 18, 25, 196; 
clans in, 17, 27 

United States: financial aid from, 31, 46, 
47, 48, 139, 176; food relief from, 129; 
joint military exercises with, 48, 176; 
materiel from, 47; military aid from, 
xxvi, xxxii, 46, 47, 176, 181, 210-12; 
military intervention by, xxxiv; mili- 
tary training in, 208; police force 
trained by, xxiv, 31, 215; provisional 
government recognized by, 177 

United States Agency for International 
Cooperation (AIC), 20 

United States Agency for International 
Development (AID), 128 

United States Centers for Disease Con- 
trol, xxxii, 113, 115 

United States Rapid Deployment Force, 

United States-Somali relations, 45-46, 

52, 176-77, 196 
urban areas: migration to, 92; population 

in, 68; refugees in, 92 
urban subsistence sector, 144-46 
USC. See United Somali Congress 
USF. See United Somali Front 
Usmaan, Aadan Abdullah, 23, 26, 32, 33, 


Usmaan, Mahammad Aadan Shaykh, 46 
Usmaan, Mahammad Shaykh (colonel), 

USP. See United Somali Party 

vegetation, 60-66; geographic distribu- 
tion of, 64 

Victory Pioneers, 202, 206, 216-17, 221, 
222; mission of, 217; terrorism by, 50 

Voice of the Republic of Somaliland, 141, 

Voice of Somalia, 29 
voting practices, 35 

Wadaan clan, 84 

wadad; pi., wadaddo, xxv, 76, 97; learn- 
ing of, 101 
wage workers, 91 
warfare, 198 
warlords, xxxii 

warriors, 76, 196-98; religious leaders 

among, 94; role of, 94 
Warsangali clan, 166 
water system, 17; poisoned by Siad Barre, 


Weapons School, 208 
weather, 59 

Western Somali Liberation Front 
(WSLF), 47-48; defeat of, 186; recruits 
for, 207; support for, 172, 183, 184 

women: under customary law, 89; edu- 
cation of, 89; as food distribution coor- 
dinators, xxxiv-xxxvi; under Islamic 
law, 89; in military, 207; in police 
force, 216; in politics, 88-89, 157; 
raped by Victory Pioneers, 50, 51; 


Somalia: A Country Study 

status of, 22, 40, 58, 88-89, 104, 220; Yemen: exports to, 148-49; food relief 

World Bank: economic aid from, xxvi, Young Pioneers, 201 

46, 128, 129; membership in, 177; Yugoslavia: food relief from, 129 
pressure from, 48 

World War II, xxii, 14-15 

WSLF. See Western Somali Liberation 

Xiddigta Oktoobar (October Star), 103, 171 Zeilawi, Abd ar Rahman az, 98 

voting by, 22, 26, 88-89 
Women's Auxiliary Corps, 207 
Woqooyi Galbeed Region, 70 

from, 129 
Yeshaq (negus), 8 
Yibir, 102 

Zanzibari rule, xxi 
zar cult, 101-2 


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